PORT City Breakers coach Dan Kemp knows how Port Macquarie Sharks counterpart Wayne Grant is feeling.
Almost a year ago to the day, it was the Breakers who were in the middle of an injury crisis leading into a local derby.
The Sharks were defending premiers, had almost everyone available and dished out a 50-point hiding to their cross-town rivals.
Now the boot is on the other foot and Sharks coach Wayne Grant is even contemplating throwing the number eight jersey in the bin.
Already this season, three players have fallen victim to the jersey which they would be forgiven for thinking was cursed.
Kurt Molony, Chase Brock and Scott Grant have all suffered injuries while playing in the front row.
Grant will again have to call on his reserve grade side to fill the holes.
As well as the absence of Molony, Brock and Scott Grant, Mitch Wilbow will miss the match through North Coast representative side honours.
Ben Kirkland is also unavailable, but Jake Flanagan will replace Wilbow off the bench.
We could do without the injuries, that’s for sure. We’ll get a few blokes out of the crowd … we’ll be right.Sharks coach Wayne Grant
“We’re thinking about retiring the number eight jumper and putting a number 19 or something like that instead,” Grant said.
“We could do without the injuries, that’s for sure. We’ll get a few blokes out of the crowd … we’ll be right.”
Despite the mounting injury toll, Grant remained upbeat.
“If you’re worrying too much about who is available and who isn’t it flows through your training and then into the game and that’s not what we want,” he said.
“It does put pressure on the rest of the club, but it’s also what clubs are built on – everyone chipping in when they have to.”
Captain Tom Maguire will again lead the way up front.
“Tommy has been good for us so we’ll get him going forward and if we can have a few pushing up with him it will make his job a bit easier,” the Sharks coach said.
Breakers coach Dan Kemp was disappointed the Sharks wouldn’t have their best side available.
It’s a derby; I want to see the best Port Sharks side there is.Breakers coach Dan Kemp
“It’s a derby; I want to see the best Port Sharks side there is,” he said.
“This is our special one. We all mark it in the calendar.”
Kemp kept his cards close to his chest with who he would have at his disposal.
“We’ll have our best side we choose; can’t give too much away,” he said.
The coach was pleased to have captain Ben Stewart return for another year after he contemplated retirement following last year’s grand final.
“He’s just a tradesman and is very experienced,” he said.
“He’s as good of a clubman as I’ve known and I reckon he’s got one more year left.”
First grade kicks off at 3.15pm at Regional Stadium on Saturday with a top-of-the-table clash in reserve grade at 1.30pm.