Werris Creek commence their Second Division title defence on Saturday as the rugby league season officially kicks-off in the north.
It is the first of the region’s three senior competitions to get underway with Group 19 to follow on April 1 and Group 4 First Division at the end of April.
The Magpies have drawn what they are expecting to be a much-improved Manilla side first up, and are bracing for a tough examination at Taylor Oval.
“We’re going to be under the pump,” coach Lindsay Bowne said.
“We’re short on numbers going into round one.”
He said they won’t really know what side they’ve got until kick-off.
What they do know is Manilla will be hard to beat after some handy additions to their roster this season.
They’ve picked up Abel Carney from Norths and Ben Cederblad from Barraba, and have also lured Pirates half-back Amos Ioasa back to the orange, white and black.
Ioasa played for the Tigers in 2014 before moving to Kootingal and then returning to rugby last season.
This years competition has reverted back to a one tier format with all the teams playing each other once on a home and away basis.
“All the boys are looking forward to it,” Bowne said.
He is pretty happy with how the pre-season has gone.
They come into Saturday on the back of a 44-18 trial win over Coolah and made the final of the Pepperell Shield, where they went down to the hosts.
“Kooty was pretty good. We wanted to try and get a bit of cohesion before the start of the season,” he said.
Aside from mecurial half-back Stewie Porter they are pretty much the same as last season, and haven’t changed much on the field either.
That consistency might just get over the line on Saturday, Bowne said, the mentor keeping things pretty simple.
“We’ve just focused on our ball control and our defence,” he said.
“We’ve just got to be patient at the end of our plays and get our execution right.”
In the other first round games, Bendemeer are at home to Bundarra, Walcha host Uralla, Bingara travel to Kootingal and Dungowan and Boggabri match up in a minor semi-final replay.