WEE WAA Panthers have the chance to upset near neighbours and fierce rivals, Narrabri Blues, in the first game of the new Group 4 Cup season on Sunday.
It’s one of two big local derbies to start the season, with premiers West Lions tackling North Tamworth in a grand final replay at Jack Woolaston Oval tomorrow while new club, Tamworth-based Oxley Diggers, heads to Gunnedah to play Gunnedah Bulldogs at Kitchener Park on Sunday.
Wee Waa coach Adrian Sunderland has a new-look side under his control after losing a number of last year’s first grade squad.
Lindsay and Blake Pawley have both moved away, as have Scott Spencer and Peter Wenner. Neil Gibbs and Justin Knight are both playing for Narrabri and will have a quick and emotional homecoming.
Added to that is the loss of Josh Trindall (Wagga) and the retirements of Luke Barton and Wade Mallinson.
“It’s a fairly different side,” club vice-president Kenny Anderson said.
Anderson , a stalwart player and official, is hoping to play but has to try to fit it in with his work commitments at the Wee Waa Bowling Club.
While the Panthers have lost a number of last year’s first grade side, they have picked up four recruits from Walgett as well as a few other former players.
“We’ve had a good showing at training,” Anderson said.
“We do have some good quality reserve graders too.”
North Tamworth Bears want to start their new season off on a winning note at Jack Woolaston Oval tomorrow, coach Brad McManus said.
“But we won’t be taking West lightly,” McManus said.
“They still have a core of players from last year under Chris Hunt and have some good young kids too. Chris Hunt has done a good job getting them together.”
The Bears will welcome back former captain-coach Sean Ferguson.
“At this stage he’ll come off the bench and probably play hooker,” McManus said.
“He hasn’t trained yet but is moving back and has a few things to organise.
“He knows his way around the football field.”
Ferguson played for Gilgandra last season but will be a key addition to the Bears under skipper Marshall Barker.
“We’ll be at full strength,” McManus said.
“We’ve pretty much got the nucleus of players from last year.
“They played well at the Wests KO and we’ve picked up a couple of others as well.”
One of those pickups is Abel Carney.
“He played out at Moree last year but has returned,” McManus said.
“He will be a good addition – he’s an honest footballer.”