"CHALK and cheese."
That's the difference between the Taree City first grade rugby league of 2021 and the 2022 version, according to captain-coach Trae Clark.
The Bulls are preparing for what will be their first hit-out for the year on Sunday against Macleay Valley at the Jack Neal Oval.
Taree's opening round game against Old Bar was put on hold when the Old Bar Reserve was closed following more rain last weekend. However, Clark said his side trained at the Neal Oval this week and declared it is right for action.
"We'll play, unless we get torrential rain between now and Sunday,'' he said.
We'll play, unless we get torrential rain between now and Sunday- Taree City captain-coach Trae Clark
The fact that only three grades will be played instead of the usual four, as Macleay doesn't field a league tag squad, would also work in favour of the match going ahead, Clark added.
The Bulls were overrun by Macleay on a firm surface at the Neal Oval last year and Clark concedes that a heavy track would help nobble the Mustangs. However, Clark's confident his squad can handle the visitors in any conditions.
Unlike last year, where he concedes the Bulls lacked both experience and quality, Clark says Taree has the firepower to match Macleay in all departments.
He's confident Taree's forwards, led by props Josh Northam and Matt Taupe, can lay the foundation.
Nartham, a former Group Three representative, is making a comeback after a couple of seasons off, while Taupe has consistently been among Taree's best for a number of seasons.
Clark hasn't been forced to make any changes to the team he would have taken into the game against the Pirates.
"We had a good run this week and the boys can't wait to get a game,'' he said.
"I just hope the rain stays away and we can get onto the field.''
Meanwhile, first round winners Port Macquarie and Forster-Tuncurry meet at the Port Macquarie Stadium tomorrow.
This will be the start of four weeks on the road for the Hawks.
Captain-coach Nathan Campbell expects to field the same side this week as accounted for Wauchope last Saturday at Tuncurry. Newcomer, lock Matt Swain was among their best while hooker Riley Glover and halfback Adrian Davis were also strong. Port Sharks downed Macleay Valley in the opening round.
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