On the eve of completing his century of first grade appearances for the Forster-Tuncurry Dolphins, Troy Haines, the powerhouse forward of the club’s five successive rugby union grand finals, is about to leave the Great Lakes to begin employment with Victorian Railways.
So impressive has Haines been that Mid North Coast Axemen’s coach, Angus Anderson, pencilled him in for a position in his squad for the Caldwell Cup in the NSW Country zone championships in April.
A fearless, hard-running 100kg forward, Haines has appeared in 98 games for the Dolphins, essentially as a backrower, but he has excelled at times as hooker, the position where coach Anderson visualised him playing for the Axemen.
The only comforting aspect of Haines’ departure is that Brad Murray, an exciting first-season newcomer in the back row in 2016 and who was unavailable last winter due to his “new addition” in the family, resumed training with the club last week.
Murray and his twin brothers were refugees from soccer yet made the transition from the round-ball code to rugby with relative ease, all playing first grade consistently to claim a premiership with the
Dolphins in the midst of their four-premiership sequence between 2013-2016.
“I’ll be home occasionally this winter so I hope to reach my 100 games then,” Haines said this week.
The Dolphins’ drill programs under the supervision of John Hassett have begun encouragingly without player numbers being overwhelming so it was pleasing that former winger, Trae Wilkins, who ran in two tries in the Dolphins’ grand final win in 2014 should make a return to training last week.
Likewise, Colin Harris, who has moved from damaging centre to backrower to prop forward over several years in his 138-game career, another to miss last year’s rugby, is back in training.
Some highly experienced and valued players such as former MNC representative winger, Jesse Logan, outstanding line-out jumper, Jack Woods, and fellow forwards, Gavin Maberly-Smith, Nigel Pereira, Chris Simon, Pat Randall and Scott Walmsley, and utility back Rob Avard have yet to make an appearance.
What is conspicuous by their absence is that the club urgently requires new blood – something all six clubs have in common – this year more than ever before.
The Dolphins train under head coach Ron Rae each Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6pm at Peter Barclay Field in Tuncurry.
First-round games of the Kennards Hire premiership on April 9 are: Wallamba Bulls v Myall Coast Mud Crabs at Nabiac; Old Bar Clams v Forster Tuncurry Dolphins at Richard Crook Field, Old Bar; Manning River Ratz v Gloucester Cockies at Taree Rugby Park.
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