THE North Tamworth Bears will be heading into season 2014 with some momentum after convincingly beating Greta Branxton in a trial game at Jack Woolaston Oval on Saturday.
The win makes it two from two for last year’s grand finalist after it travelled to Terrigal last weekend and beat the hosts three tries to one in a tough game.
The Bears turned on the attack this week, scoring seven tries to win 28-12.
Once again, Brad McManus will be at the helm, although there have been a few changes since last season.
The Bears will miss brothers Jake Hawkins and Dylan Manicaros after they have both gone to Newcastle, Manicaros getting a run with the Knights’ U20 squad.
Another loss for the club will be Mick Watton after he moved back to Coonabarabran in the off-season.
It is not all bad news for the Bears though after they picked up Narrabri’s Zac Russ, and former captain coach Shaun Ferguson has also moved back to town and will most likely pick up the hooking role.
“We have lost and gained a few players but we have the same base as we did last year,” McManus said.
“The side is starting to put something together and building into the season.”
The coach has been very happy with both trials, although is still looking to cement the playmaker roles.
Nick Dobson played hooker on Saturday and was one of the best on field, whilst Abel Carney also played well at five-eighth.
Kieran Fisher will start at half-back and the combination will get another hit-out in a fortnight when it takes on Warialda in the final trial before the season.
Preceding the game was a rematch of last year’s second division grand final between Barraba and Quirindi.
Premiers Barraba will go into the season as favourites after beating the Grasshoppers 32-8.
Dungowan will also be one of the teams to beat in the new 10-team competition after it accounted for the Bears’ reserve grade five tries to one.
Kootingal played Gulgong in Kootingal and also came away with a win.
Kooty will host the annual Pepperell Shield on March 15 where this season’s hotly-contested second division sides will get a good look and hit-out against each other before the season starts on April 5.
The Group 4 season will kick off on April 27 with a huge local derby and grand final replay of North hosting West.
New side Oxley Diggers will travel to Gunnedah whilst Narrabri will host Wee Waa in another local derby.