The defending premiers will strive to restore honour and long-time challengers will seek to salvage pride when the Wallamba Bulls meet the Manning River Ratz in the Lower Mid North Coast rugby union match-of-the-day at Nabiac this Saturday, June 15.
In their first-round game last month, the Ratz overwhelmed last year's premiers embarrassingly, 52-15, only for the Ratz, in turn, to be stung, 46-19, in their last-game loss to the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins at Taree Rugby Park.
In the off-season, Wallamba lost a number of regular players, but have gradually rebuilt their forces and from the evidence of their 32-22 win over Wauchope, they have injected new life into the men's competition and will give a stronger account of themselves against the Ratz.
With the NSW Country Zone Championships held in Tamworth last weekend, the Kennards Hire Lower MNC club competition will resume on Saturday.
For their home ground clash with the Old Bar Clams at Peter Barclay Field, Tuncurry, the Dolphins will welcome back their captain, classy inside-centre Mark Hagarty.
This game will be an acid test for the Clams with the Dolphins fielding a heavyweight scrum, reinforced by the fortuitous arrival of four Tongan forwards.
In the women's 10-a-side rugby competition, last season's champions, the Gloucester Cockies, meet the team most favoured to claim the title this year, the Wauchope Thunder.
The Cockies' advantage is that they are playing on their home ground of Gloucester Oval.
With future events being organised, there is a real positivity and future in junior rugby in the area.Lee Sullivan
Lee Sullivan, the dual premiership-winning coach and driving force in the newly created Lower MNC Junior Rugby Union, has begun preparations for three teams of under-10s, 12s and 14s to take part in the Coffs Challenge in Coffs Harbour over the first three days of the July school holidays.
Last year, the MNC zone sent two teams to the Challenge. This season, more teams will go.
Following the splendidly successful junior rugby sessions at Nabiac on Friday evenings, the code is continuing to develop pleasingly.
Mr Sullivan said: "A platform has been laid for players to take part in the hugely successful Coffs tournament.
"With future events being organised, there is a real positivity and future in junior rugby in the area.
"It is in grass root juniors where the game's growth lies. The MNC rugby union, under the leadership of Peter Gerathy and Bob Wilsonm, have made this a major focus.
"One has only to consider the hugely successful programs in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour to realise how junior rugby is increasing.
"Boys and girls aged between eight and 15 are most welcome to attend. Accommodation and transport costs are the players' responsibility. Otherwise, there are no costs associated with playing in Coffs Harbour.
"The MNC zone will provide financial support needed to take part."
This week's training will take place on Friday night, June 14 at Blackhead Sports Field from 6pm.
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