The Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins will have to rebuild its fortunes this year without club captain Tom Bolton due to continuing difficulties with a shoulder injury he sustained last winter.
The outstanding 27-year-old utility damaged the AC joint of his shoulder against the ultimate first-season premiers, the Myall Coast Mudcrabs, an injury which proved a major factor in the minor premiers’ competition-ending preliminary final loss to long-time rivals, the Old Bar Clams.
“My shoulder has not recovered as I had hoped and I expect to miss this season,” Bolton said of his injury at the Dorvik Steel Dolphins’ headquarters in Tuncurry on Saturday.
In only two years with the Dolphins, Bolton proved one of the most adaptable utility players in the Lower Mid North Coast competition, wiry, quick and penetrative at inside-centre and strong enough to win possession and snuff out opposition attacks with his aggression and fine tackling as breakaway.
With the late-season, career-ending loss through a knee injury of long-serving lock Ryan Fenning and the decision by former NSW Country representative lock Shane Dean to focus on his son’s football future, it has not been an encouraging start to the season for the Dolphins.
Last Saturday, the Dolphins were to hold their seventh annual super 10s carnival only to be obliged to abandon the $1000 winner-take-all tournament with a 30-metre wide lake rising between the two playing fields at Tuncurry at the height of last week’s deluge of more than 250 millimetres.
Two players who had indicated their willingness to play for the Dolphins in the 12-club tournament were the Loring brothers, Jake and Drew, valuable acquisitions from rugby league when they changed codes for the season in 2011. They would be welcome back this year.
One of the clubs planning to take part in the Dolphins’ early-season carnival was Harrington, wooden-spooners of the Lower MNC premiership last year, who have recruited strongly in the off-season with representative prop Ben Hunter and three Manning River Ratz teammates in Donovan Webb, Brenten Streeting and Tim “Sticks” LeStrange joining the Hurricanes.
It is also understood strong-running centre Ben Northam will play for Harrington when there is no clash with his rugby league commitments.
The loss of the players will make the task of new Ratz coach Danial Stone harder and, like the Dolphins, it is apparent the Taree club needs more new blood with Old Bar having already conceded they have inadequate numbers to compete this year after five successive grand final appearances and premierships in 2009 and 2011.