The annual exodus has begun.
Every year it is the same with young country players drawn to the city for reasons of employment or education, but this summer is different for the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, successive four-year champions of the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union competition.
The Dolphins have lost their 19-year-old record-breaking winger, Jack Nicholson, to Sydney, but in a fortunate turn of events, another player has returned, the club’s M.N.C. Zone rugby representative of the 2015 N.S.W. Country Carnival at Bowral, the exciting Fijian, Naibuka Naqito.
“Buka” played rugby league last season with the Tuncurry Forster Hawks only for a shoulder injury to disrupt his season and limit his football with the club, setbacks which decided him to return to the Dolphins where he helped win the 2015 premiership.
When M.N.C. selector, Gloucester’s Chris Marchant, conducted his first pre-season training run at Nabiac for potential Axemen, for players interested in representing the zone in the N.S.W. Country Championships carnival at Port Macquarie in Autumn, he was delighted to see Naqito in the squad.
Naqito, 25, has speed and strength and at 105kgs, is a formidable runner from the back of the scrum. Unsure where to play him at Bowral, the M.N.C. Axemen’s then coaching panel chose him on the wing where he rarely saw the ball and had little involvement or opportunity to shine.
This year, the M.N.C.’s new coach, Angus Anderson, will have more knowledge of the Fijian and make better use of his talents, presumably at blind side breakaway or No 8.
The departure of winger/fullback Nicholson has dealt the Dolphins a heavy blow. Joining the club as an uncommonly speedy beach sprinter in 2014, he proved a lethal runner out wide, scoring 51 tries in his three seasons in premiership-winning teams, 20 tries in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Now based at Sans Souci, Nicholson is considering playing for Southern Districts club in Sydney, working as a landscaper and hotel handyman, “76 hours a week to make some money before the rugby rolls around.”
Dolphins president Damian Daczko, club secretariat Sue and Gerry Hobbs and vice-president Mark Coble welcomed the club’s new coaching panel of Ron Rae and Paul Drake to their Tuncurry clubhouse on Saturday.
Mr Rae will begin preparations on registration day (2.30 pm for 3 pm) on January 28, involving all players, new and old, at the clubhouse, followed by a warm-up training session for the Crescent Head seven-a-side tournament and after match barbecue.