A BLOCKBUSTER grand final replay and local derby between Port Sharks and Port City Breakers will kick off the Group 3 rugby league season on May 7.
The two sides will meet at Regional Stadium on the first Saturday of the proper competition, after the final of the pre-season tournament the previous Sunday.
In the other games of round one, the Taree City Bulls host Old Bar Beach Pirates, Forster Tuncurry Hawks face Wingham Tigers at Harry Elliott Oval and the Wauchope Blues travel to Verge Street at Kempsey to take on the group’s prodigal sons in the Macleay Valley Mustangs.
Then, there are games set down for Regional Stadium for the next three weeks, giving Port’s league fans plenty of opportunities to get out and have a look at the action.
The Sharks are due to begin training for their title defence on January 19.
Steady improvement throughout the season is what coach Joe Cudmore is aiming for as the team looks to go back to back.
“I know we had a good record last season, but win, lose or draw, as long as we’re improving, I don’t really care,” he said.
Timing is important in making sure the side is at its peak when it matters most.
Previous Sharks coach Matt Shipway was an expert at getting it right, and Cudmore hopes to emulate that.
“No-one remembers who wins in the first couple of rounds,” he said.
It will be three games straight between the two sides, with finals fixtures finishing off the season last year, and Cudmore looked forward to the added spice of the derby.
“It’s a big boost for the comp again,” Cudmore said.
Breakers coach Digby Murray is looking forward to kicking off training for the year ahead with a strong side.
Good forwards and some speed out wide is what Murray is predicting for the Breakers this season.
“We’ll have quite a good side,” Murray said.
The Breakers will kick off training on January 17 at Oxley Oval, before a Mudgee Nines appearance in February and a trial against Picton Magpies.
The Magpies will be a tough test for the Breakers. They have won the past three G6 titles.
“That should be quite a good trial,” Murray said.
Group 3 secretary Barrie Smith couldn’t wait for the new-look draw to come in. He said the pre-season competition made for a great opportunity for clubs to earn some good prize money ahead of the season starting.
The one and two ranked teams will play off for the shield final and it’s three versus four for the shield.
The regular season will be two rounds.
“It’s a great set up,” Smith said.
“We get the best of both worlds.”
Anyone looking at turning out for the Port City Breakers this season is urged to contact Murray on 0419 226 280.
If you want to play for Sharks, ring Cudmore on 0447 042 618.