Hastings Rugby League kicks off this week with the pre-season Bain Cup Tournament in Wauchope on Friday night.
League chairman Corey Richardson said the 2017 season is looking to be an entertaining one for spectators with eight strong teams ready to play.
Newcomers, the Laurieton Hotel Stingrays are a welcome addition to the competition, Richardson said.
“We lost two teams, Harrington Hurricanes and Lake Cathie Raiders, and it’s always disappointing to lose teams. But I think this will strengthen the competition,” Richardson said.
“Lake Cathie have merged with the Port Macquarie Boardriders to form a strong alliance and the addition of the Stingrays will create a competition of eight teams who will be very competitive this year.
“I think Kendall, Comboyne and Lower Macleay will probably still be the teams to beat, but I don’t think we will see the lop-sided scores we saw in some games last year.”
The season proper will begin on May 6 and will be a treat for rugby league fans in the Camden Haven as the Stingrays take on the historic might of the Kendall Blues at Laurieton Oval.
“It’s great for Laurieton to have a senior rugby league team again,” Richardson said.
“The town is abuzz and looking forward to having football back in town. The Stingrays have strong player numbers and even more people wanting to help out. It’s a football town.”
The Stingrays will have their first taste of the competition during the Bain Cup tournament at Lank Bain Oval which begins at 6pm Friday April 21.
Laurieton will play the South West Rocks Marlins, Port Boardriders will play Long Flat, Lower Macleay takes on Beechwood and the Kendall Blues and Comboyne Tigers will meet again for the first time since the 2016 grand final where Comboyne were victorious.
The Bain Cup is a knockout competition with each game consisting of 20-minute halves. The winners will progress through to the semi finals on Saturday and the grand final will be played on Saturday April 29.
The league is also looking for more players for the women’s 9s tournament.
“It took a while for the women’s competition to receive the final approval and the initial wave of interest has been lost, so if any players are still keen to play please come down to training on Monday and Wednesday nights at 6pm at Lank Bain Oval Wauchope,” Richardson said.
“We will need to decide soon if there are enough players for the competition to go ahead.”