BENDEMEER might just have the toughest start of any club in the Woodleys Isuzu Ute Group 4 first grade competition.
After drawing defending premiers North Tamworth in the first round, they face what used to be one of the toughest road trips in Group 4 when they visit Narrabri’s Collins Park on Sunday.
Collins Park was always seen as something of a “graveyard” for visiting teams in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Indeed, the Blues beat West Tamworth in a grand final at Collins Park in 1990.
2018 Narrabri coach Wayne Saunders remembers it well – he played in it – and he is hoping his current side can regain that “graveyard” feeling at home.
“We hope to create that sort of feeling this year,” Saunders said.
“Teams like Kootingal, Bendemeer and Dungowan have never played here before, either. We hope to win all our home games and we have been talking about the tradition and that identity it [Collins Park] has.”
Narrabri started its new season with a 56-20 loss to Gunnedah last round and have a much easier task on Sunday when they tackle a Bendemeer side which tasted a 92-6 loss to North Tamworth in round one.
Narrabri made the Bears earn their fourth successive premiership at Jack Woolaston Oval in last season’s grand final and Saunders hoped his side can rediscover that form quickly.
While Bendemeer has not played at Collins Park, coach Will Jerrard has and scored many a slashing try for West Lions out there in his brilliant career.
“We’ve got to go to Narrabri now,” he said after last Saturday’s loss.
“That will be tough out there. We’ve got to work on a few things but I was pretty happy with what we did.”
Like Bendemeer, Boggabri also has a tough road trip this weekend.
They go to the Dungowan Recreation Reserve on Saturday to play a Cowboys side smarting from a 42-26 loss to Werris Creek.
Kangaroos coach Shane Rampling is confident his young side can upset the Cowboys on their home turf, although he will be without talented youngsters Brendan Gillham and Bailey Lennox.
Both were injured last week and Rampling hoped they recover well.
“We are looking forward to it,” Rampling said.
“We just need a bit more confidence but as long as we compete, I will be happy.”
The Werris Creek Magpies also head to Gunnedah on Saturday making it an interesting clash between the two first round winners.
The Bulldogs have welcomed back Hayden Smith and are a young side with plenty of pace.
Their clash with the free-flowing Magpies could be the match of the round although Kootingal’s clash with North Tamworth at Kootingal Oval on Sunday also offers plenty.
The Bears match up against a Roosters side with a number of players well known to the Bears from their days at Wests and Collegians. Sam Taylor has combined well with Jordan Sharpe while Jake McLoughlin, Kyle Cochrane and Brodie Sowter will have a colossal battle with the Bears pack.