INVERELL might be the team to beat at the Armidale Knockout this weekend.
The Highlanders were runners-up last year to Pirates, and have also won the tournament a couple of times themselves.
The side found themselves in the shield finals after a two point loss to Walcha at the Gunnedah Tens last weekend, but picked themselves up and took home a prize anyway.
They met Tamworth in the final and ran away with the Shield and $1500 after getting up 31-14.
Coach Scott Bremner said the club couldn’t wait for the season to begin.
The boys have been training for six weeks now and with a roll up of 30 players, numbers will be no issue.
“We have got a great core of young blokes that have come through the ranks and are now in the opens,” Bremner said.
“We will not be one of the bigger teams but we will be very quick and very mobile.”
The Highlanders are importing some players to make sure they can hold their own at the set pieces.
A front rower from Romania and one from Scotland have been enlisted to fill the gaps.
They will arrive only 10 days before the competition starts.
“Aussie just doesn’t breed frontrowers anymore,” Bremner said.
“We really didn’t have any other options if we wanted a front row.”
The coach is setting short-term goals as the season approaches.
One of the major goals is to get in the top tier of the new two tier format.
“I am setting achievable objectives all the way through, but we should get there.”
The coach is happy to sit on the fence in regards to the format.
He is concerned that some of the clubs won’t be able to consistently field reserve grade sides, but agrees that something needs to be done.
“It would be great to get in the top tier.”
“For the final 10 weeks before the finals the top tier will just play great finals footy every week.”
“That is one of the major advantages of the format, it will be excellent footy.”
After finishing in sixth last year the Highlanders are throwing everything into having a good start to the season, and the draw has been kind.
“We had a better team than sixth last season, we underachieved.”
“This year we will be better and are looking to win the first three games.”
Inverell have drawn Barraba, Walcha, and Scone for those games.
Although the next three after that will be Moree, Narrabri, and Pirates.
“I am pretty happy with how the draw has worked out,”
“Although if we want to get in the top tier and compete we have to beat the best teams.”
The Knockout has attracted 16 teams this year with the action kicking off at 9am at Moran Oval.