After a long off-season, the Macleay Valley Mustangs will take to the field on Saturday in the best shape the club has been in for years.
They will face the Port Macquarie Sharks in all four grades at Verge Street Oval in the Northern Pre-season Cup while Wauchope Blues and Port City Breakers will meet at the same location in a big day of rugby league in Kempsey.
The winning and losing side of each division will face off in Port Macquarie next weekend.
Reserve grade coach Sam Drew believes the foundation the club built in their return to Group 3 will help them excel in the 2017 season.
“Last year we took a step forward and did a lot of good things not just on the field but particularly off the field,” Drew said.
“We have taken the club back to what it was and we will keep that up this year.”
Drew says the players have returned to the ‘old values’ of the club.
“Hopefully we can keep the same connection we developed between the community and the club,” he said.
“It helps set a good example for the juniors and coach ‘Uncle Dicko’ will be in charge of the Under 18s side again and he has a real good connection with them.”
Drew believes the club’s improvement off the field will contribute to their successes on it.
“All four grades are looking very strong. First grade is looking sharp and at training you can see the connection between halves pairing Malcolm Webster and Anthony Cowan,” Drew said.
“The leadership and structure they bring to the side will improve their results this year and you can see players from the other sides learning off them.”
The two experienced players return to the club after leading Grafton to a premiership in 2015 and more recently represented Orara in Group 2.
The reserve grade side reached the finals series last season but was unfortunately eliminated in the opening weekend of the knockout stages.
Drew believes the side is primed to do better.
“Our goal is of course to reach the finals again,” Drew said.
“We want to go further though, hopefully we can push for a premiership.”