Forster-Tuncurry lose to key players a month out from Lower North Coast Rugby semifinals

THE search is on by the Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins to find replacements for the near irreplaceable Naibuka Naqito and Jack Nicholson with the semi-final playoffs of the Lower Mid North Coast Rugby Union premiership just a month away.

“Buka” Naqito, the Dolphins’ powerful Fijian utility player, has accompanied his wife, Kayla, to Alice Springs where she plans to begin a teaching position.

The try-scoring winger-fullback, Nicholson, has returned to Sydney in a bid to establish himself in representative sevens rugby.

The players have been so outstanding that were a Dolphins team-of-the-decade chosen now, both Naqito, a MNC Axeman representative in this year’s NSW Country championships at Port Macquarie, and Nicholson, the MNC Colts winger, would be included.

Players of this quality are hard to find in country rugby union.

In the crisis, Kurt Forester and Rob Avard have returned to the club to fill valuable roles while two new men from rugby league, Johnny Bell and Jackson Smith, have been trialled this month.

Bell ran in two tries in the heavy defeat of the Myall Coast Mudcrabs at Hawks Nest last weekend while Smith has lucklessly strained an Achilles heel tendon.

What was particularly pleasing for coach Ron Rae last Saturday was the performance of Zac Palmer, who displayed considerable speed on the right wing.

Should he train regularly, a position in the Dolphins’ back line seems assured.

The Dolphins are at home this weekend against the Old Bar Clams. The glory days and premierships of 2009 and 2011 seem distant for the Clams, but new coach Tim Tout is building club spirit and it is to be hoped they return to being a force in the competition in the years to come.

The Gloucester Cockies meet Myall Coast at Gloucester Park, an opportunity for Gloucester to redeem themselves after last weekend’s 80-7 shellacking by Manning River when 12 players ran on against the Ratz at Taree Rugby Park.

In the match of the round, Wallamba, the competition front-runners, play the third-placed Ratz at home at Nabiac.

With three rounds remaining before next month’s final playoffs, the table stands at: Wallamba and Forster Tuncurry 55 points each, Manning River 35, Myall Coast 22, Gloucester 11 and Old Bar two points.