MANNING Ratz coach Jake Maurirere said his side faced a difficult initiation to the Lower North Coast Rugby Union premiership against early-season hot shots Wallamba at Nabiac tomorrow.
The Bulls and Gloucester are the only teams to have played a competition match this year, where Wallamba prevailed 82-7 in an ominous sign for rival clubs.
“They’re getting better and better under coach Lee Sullivan. That’s good for them,’' Maurirere said.
He said the Ratz will have a couple of younger players who are new to rugby tomorrow but otherwise will be much the same squad as made last season’s preliminary final.
Maurirere believes the Ratz will take a couple of rounds to get their bearings, but he’s confident they’ll be a competitive unit at the business end of the campaign.
The Bulls have been fortunate to have played in several preseason clashes and the only game that has kicked off this season enabling the coaching staff to focus on the early season issues and forming a cohesive team both on and off the field.
Coach Sullivan expects the Ratz to be a strong opponent.
“They will really challenge our forwards and will be a tough opponent as they always have been,” Sullivan said.
This game will hold special significance for the Bulls new assistant coach and prop Paul De Szell as he pulls on the blue and white jumper against his former club and team-mates at the Ratz.
Bulls captain James Dinnan was impressed during the Bulls last game against the Cockies with new recruit on the wing Jake Schumaker and the hard running No 8 Dan Aldridge.
But he is aware that the forwards will need to do plenty of heavy lifting against the Ratz’s traditionally strong forward pack to give the wing and No 8 the chance to make the most of every opportunity.
The depth of talent signed on with the Bulls in the 2017 season should make that possible with a bench that includes Jayden Watt and Matt Woods, both strong players who had a huge impact against the Cockies in the first match of the season and will need to repeat that performance again this weekend.
This weekend will also see Christopher Tout cleared from injury to take to the field for the first time this season.