PORT Macquarie will field an impressive 10 teams all vying for the title of the best division in town at the 2018 NSW State Cup.
The mixed opens are fresh from a surprising Country Championship success earlier in the year which has them confident of success while the senior mixed opens have high expectations for the weekend.
Captain Aaron Ison will have a full-strength side at his disposal although they will also have five new faces from previous years.
“We’ve got two fairly experienced players who have played for Australia before,” he said.
Port Macquarie enter the competition ranked third.
“It’s probably our best ranking,” Ison said.
Jack Lewis and Jazzy Wilbow will be the main keys to the team’s performance while Jayden Sargent is one to keep an eye on.
“We pride ourselves on being a top four team,” the captain said of their expectations.
Elsewhere, senior mixed opens coach Warren Lorger will miss the tournament with an achilles injury, while Peter Gleeson was also ruled out following the team’s final training run on Wednesday.
“We’ve still got a very strong side and are pretty confident of going deep into the competition; we could still win it,” Lorger said.
Strong depth should ensure their disrupted preparation won’t impact on a strong overall result.
“Wayne Gleeson and Anna Gleeson will step up and take us through to Sunday and once you get there anything can happen,” Lorger said.
“We’ve got Dave Stone and Luke Sprague who come into the side so they’re very handy players who know their touch.”
The men’s and women’s 20s could face an uphill task, while the men’s 55s and masters mixed will be thereabouts come the final day of competition.
Women’s 20s coach Toni Gibson admitted her youthful team – who are mainly in the 15-17 age group – were looking forward to the challenge.
“You never know what to expect, but they made the top eight last year, so we’re hoping to do similar,” she said.
“Chloe Eichmann is a young player but has plenty of experience and Dayna Gibson, Sarah Stewart and Shelby Grainger will be the four to watch.”
Cath Eichmann’s women’s 40s will also fancy their chances of upsetting a few of their more fancied rivals.
Men’s opens coach Brendan Prince is quietly confident his team can surprise a few people.
“This is our third year with the same core of guys and definitely our strongest line up to date,” he said.
“We’re seeded the lowest in our pool of four but have set ourselves the goal of finishing top two before they do the re-draw for Saturday’s games.”
Captain Jordan Morris looms as a key player in his first year as captain while Kyle Connolly is also one to watch.
“His huge work rate will definitely help come the back end of the weekend and if we stay disciplined we’ll go a lot further than expected,” Prince said.
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