So, rugby union is dying in its boots in the bush?
The Wallamba Bulls' polished performance in downing Wauchope Thunder, 40-10, at Nabiac on Saturday denied every criticism of the code.
From Bulls hooker Scott Walmsley's rugged scrum to creative fullback , Ash Rushby, the region's player of the year last winter, Wallamba were full of enterprise in giving fair warning of their menace to the remaining clubs in the Lower Mid North Coast competition this year.
Things warmed up nicely in the women's early game when Wauchope unveiled a thrilling newcomer in Renee Clarke, who ran in a competition record six tries as the Thunder overwhelmed an under-staffed Wallamba, 72-7.
Reinforced by the arrival of the husky Tongan lock or backrower, "Hau" Honema'u, the 2019 premiership-winner of the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, apparently with more players to follow, Wallamba have again emerged as a major force for the Kennards Hire premiership shield.
The splendid feature of this Wallamba men's team is its variety of personalities, its blend of youth and experience, from perennial champion flanker and captain, Daniel Hessing, and slick former MNC Axemen's representative halfback, Andrew Paynter, to its two schoolboys, goal-kicking five- eighth, Martin Jackson, and soccer convert, wing flier, Jacob King, a try-scorer in his first game of rugby.
Referee Greg Boyer awarded his player-of-the-day award to the Bulls' teenaged five-eighth, Jackson, who displayed remarkable poise in his initial appearance against first grade opponents and kicked for goal with impressive assurance.
Coach Daniel Sawyer is blending players of youth and experience and, as with the Manning River Ratz's coach, Jake Maurirere, he is not expecting immediate miracles from a team with numerous changes from last winter.
The reassuring factor for both coaches is that they have players of quality.
The Bulls now meet the similarly unbeaten defending champions, the Ratz, next Saturday at Nabiac, a game which is bound to see sparks fly.
The disconcerting feature of the round was the Old Bar Clams' heavy 94-20 loss to the Ratz, the club's lack of playing numbers presenting president, Brian Groughan, with much to agonise about.
The Cams have a distinguished history, but now they desperately need new players.
On the subject of experience, Chris Tout has for some years been one of the finest players ever to grace the region, a big, strong and fast utility back, a representative player blessed with all the skills, but who never hungered for rugby fame and fortune.
Now, outside Jake Schumacher, he is forming a superb centre combination for the Bulls, providing deft passing, swerving for a better attacking position for his team-mate, delaying his pass, a threat every time he touches the ball.
The Mid North Coast Zone are seeking players for the approaching Country carnival.
Tout is still young enough, and good enough, should he want an MNC Axeman's jersey.
Mid North Coast rugby union results:
Round two, May 1
Upper Mid North Coast
- Coffs Harbour 31 def SCU Marlins 10
- Port Macquarie 32 def Kempsey 17
- Coffs Harbour 44 def SCU Marlins 0
- Kempsey 27 def Port Macquarie 21
Lower Mid North Coast
- Manning River 94 def Old Bar 20
- Wallamba 40 def Wauchope 10
- Wauchope 72 def Wallamba 7