THE McDonald’s Northern Inland Premier League will get off to a rain-affected start today.
Only two of the six games will be going ahead with rain taking its toll on the condition of a number of grounds.
The Narrabri/Wee Waa and Tamworth FC clash at Hogan Oval, Joeys match-up with South Armidale in Inverell, Guyra United/Gunnedah United game at Guyra and the all-Armidale battle between East Armidale and Demon Knights have all been washed out and will be rescheduled, most likely to the Anzac Day weekend.
That leaves Moree and North Companions clash up in Moree, and the Oxley Vale Attunga’s encounter with Gunnedah Hawks to go ahead.
The latter has been transferred to Cross Park (or Gipps St 18).
The Mushies finished runner-up last season and have shown some good form during the pre-season, taking out the Kevin Johnson Memorial two weeks ago.
There they met the Hawks and new coach Tim Coates is wary of them.
“It’ll be a good barometer,” he said.
“They’ll be yards better than last year.”
He’s expecting a hard game and said they would have to watch carefully the Hawks new imports.
“They had a couple of English players in the midfield that looked very talented and we’ll have to watch,” Coates said.
They won’t be quite at full strength with Glenn McKnight at a wedding and Luke Purcell out with suspension.
He’s got a week to serve from last year’s grand final.
Coates said they would miss McKnight’s steady presence at the back, but said Aiden Flynn had been playing well for them in the lead-up.
James Goddard and Troy Kyte have also come back to play with them after some time away and will be handy.
The Mushies like to play an attacking style of football.
Coates won’t be pulling that back but has had them working hard on picking up their defence.
“We need to work harder in defence,” he said.
“You can’t just score a goal and switch off in defence.”
“Last year the grand final was lost on a defensive error.”
“We’ve got to take that out of the game.”