THE HIGHLANDERS will host Walcha in the first New England derby of the season this Saturday.
After beating the Barraba Rams in inclement conditions last weekend, a win over the red Rams would go a long way towards getting a first five spot.
Inverell coach Scott Bremner was pleased with the team’s first-up effort although thought their execution was a bit rusty.
“There was some atrocious conditions and I think we bombed four tries,” Bremner said.
“Although at the start of the season a win is a win and we will take it.”
The coach believes the team underachieved last season and is determined not to do it again.
Inverell has a lot of different players this year and is a very young side.
“We have a lot of young homegrown talent coming up this year,” Bremner said.
“I will be very disappointed if we miss out on that top five.”
Blindside flanker Will Hollingworth was the clear standout last week, polling 20 out of 22 players’ player votes.
“Defensively he had an absolute screamer and was at every breakdown,” Bremner said.
He was joined by his openside counterpart Will Bivers who also impressed after being a last-minute inclusion.
While it was the loose forwards that got them the win last week, the Highlanders’ strength lies in their dangerous and big backline.
The two biggest blokes in the team are the centres, Tukia Muli and Chad Makim.
Muli played first grade for Parramatta last year in the Shute Shield and is a very dangerous addition to the side.
Hunter Barnett has taken over the fly half roles after finishing school at TAS last year, and has a deft pass and good boot.
“The boys are hard ball runners with good skills,” Bremner said.
“Once the combos get working they will be very dangerous.”
“Get it going with the forwards and sling it out the back – simple rugby.”
That is the game plan anyway, especially against Walcha which plays a similar style.
“I think they are a bit undermanned this week but it is always a tough and physical encounter,” Bremner said.
“On the field as well as in the bar.”
With both sides mainly consisting of farmers and producers, the Highlanders have taken the opportunity to hold a special day.
The Inverell Rugby Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day will be held today at the football.
A whole range of organisations will be represented, with the teams wearing a blue armband.
“We have got a bit of rain lately but are not quite out of the drought,” Bremner said.
“It affects more people than you think and is a silent killer.”
“We are not doing anything special but just want to increase awareness and let people know there are plenty of places to get help.”
The Highlanders’ reserve grade will be taking on a visiting Hunter Valley Vikings team, as Walcha is not fielding reserve grade this season.
Former Inverell player Andrew Cable is coaching the Vikings, whose season does not start for another three weeks.
The New England competition is in recess during the university holidays.