OUTSIDE of a few Koori Knockout fixtures, Chris Piper has been starved of rugby league for the last 18 months.
On Saturday, the Port Macquarie Sharks second-rower will play his first competitive fixture in 552 days when North Coast host Illawarra-South Coast in their NSWRL Country Championship men's open division clash.
The clash at Harry Elliott Oval in Tuncurry will see Piper return to the field for the first time since Macleay Valley won the Group 3 rugby league decider on August 25, 2019.
It provides an opportunity for him to link up with a number of his former Port City Breakers teammates who he appeared with in back-to-back grand finals in 2017 and 2018.
"I'm looking forward to playing with a few of the boys I haven't played alongside for a while," he said.
"But it's been a long time since I've played rep footy."
Piper last made the North Coast side in 2005 and he didn't have any concerns about his return to the field being a representative fixture.
There won't be any trials for him to get his timing right.
"Footy is footy so it doesn't bother me that it's a rep game because I turn up to try and win every game I play in," he said.
"As long as we prepare right we give ourselves the best chance and all the boys are ready to play."
Coach Dan Kemp will want the experienced Piper to provide the direction for some of his younger teammates.
"I'm one of the older boys in the team so I've got to lead from the front," he said.
"I can't wait.
Saturday's clash kicks off at 1pm and will be part of a four-game calendar of fixtures which will also feature the Bulldogs' under-16s, under-18s and ladies tackle teams.
North Coast Bulldogs: 1 Cody Robbins, 2 Owen Blair, 3 Peter Uikelotu, 4 Trae Clark, 5 William Griffiths, 6 Tony Thompson, 7 Tristan Scott, 8 Matt Hyland, 9 Joss Cleal, 10 Jake Samoa, 11 Sam Miles, 12 Chris Piper, 13 Richie Roberts (C) Bench: 14 Ethan Thompson, 15 Fletcher Strong, 16 Mitchell Fowler, 17 Jesse Douglas, 18 Brad Southan Coach: Dan Kemp
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