BOTH Dungowan and Quirindi have lost a lot of players in the off season but, with some fresh faces, both sides are looking to once again hit the top four of the Group 4 Second Division competition.
Both sides also had tough hit-outs on Saturday at Jack Woolaston Oval, with the Cowboys playing North Tamworth reserves whilst Quirindi lined up for a grand final rematch with Barraba.
The Cowboys eventually won the game against North, three tries to one.
Coach Luke Taylor was reasonably pleased with the game considering the change in faces over the off season.
“We have got a lot to scrub up on but we went fairly well considering we have lost around ten players from last season,” Taylor said.
The Cowboys have lost club stalwart Luke Tongue, who has retired, along with halfback Luke Walsh who has left.
Hooker Tim Walsh and Liam Wise have both joined new Group 4 venture Oxley Diggers as well, leaving the club short of playmakers as well as forwards.
“The new blokes have been training and playing well and we are aiming for the finals again,” Taylor said.
Last season the Cowboys made a strong end-of-season run into the finals but were beaten by Quirindi in the elimination final after beating Kooty in the minor semi.
Quirindi went on to lose to the Bulldogs in the grand final and did the same again on Saturday in the trial 32-8, a score line very similar to that of last year.
The Hoppers have lost their entire front row from last year, with hooker Matt McCulloch returning to Kooty, Mick O’Leary to North, and big man Damien Allen going to Oxley Diggers as well.
Coach Mark Austin said that some older players and some new faces have filled the gaps and he was pleased with how the side went on Saturday.
“Our defence was really good but our attack was woeful,” Austin said.
“I think we only completed two sets in the entire game.
“We are trying out some new positions and moving people around so it is expected and we should be right by round one.”
The coach said this season would offer up no easy games with the comp swelling to ten sides, but said Barraba would again set the benchmark.
The Hoppers will play Muswellbrook in another trial next week before meeting Werris Creek in the first round of the season on April 5.
Both Dungowan and Quirindi will play in the Pepperell Shield hosted by Kootingal starting on March 15.