OXLEY Vale Attunga has reached the quarter- finals of the past two State Cup competitions and is keen to do well again this year.
Its first round challenge comes from the Wingham Warriors at Taree tomorrow and, even though it is an early start to the season, the Mushies didn’t want to miss out.
“I was a bit surprised when I found out we were starting this early in the season,” OVA coach Sam Higgins said.
“But you don’t want to miss out on playing in something like this.
“We’ve done pretty well in it.
“I’m surprised it’s taken this long for more clubs around here to get into it.”
Five other Northern Inland Premier League clubs had nominated for the knockout competition only for East Armidale to pull out due to the early start to round one.
That means North Armidale United has a bye in round one, as does Tamworth FC after its opponent also forfeited.
OVA hopes to join them in round two and beyond.
The Mushies might not know their opponents but, having been in the competition before and winning through to the quarter- finals, they have some idea of how to handle the challenge.
“It depends on the draw a bit,” Higgins said.
“It’s something a bit different. We would have never thought we’d be playing Wingham at any time.
“We know what to expect without actually knowing anything about them.”
The Mushies will take a handy side to Taree.
They lost the premier league grand final to Tamworth last season but won the second grade grand final and have kept the majority of that squad for this season.
“It’s similar to our grand final side,” Higgins said.
“There are only two or three changes.
“We’re pretty happy with it and hopefully it can get the job done.
“We haven’t really lost anyone, except for Callan Elliott who isn’t playing this year and Chris Fenton is umming and ahhing at the moment so he’s not available.”
And the other advantage OVA might have is its preparation.
Unlike the other local teams in the draw the Mushies have had a trial game already this year.
They beat North Companions 2-1 last Saturday.
“It was good to get that game,” Higgins said.
“Gav (Thompson) gave us a call and offered it and we were happy with the hit-out.”
Demon Knights and South Armidale are also playing in round one.
DK heads to Orara to face Boambee Bombers tomorrow, while the Scorpions face Club Taree at Korora today.