Seven-times premiership-winner, Ron McCarthy, has been returned unopposed as club coach of the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins for next year's Lower Mid North Coast rugby union competition, beginning on April 4.
McCarthy's reappointment was purely a formality after the club's unbeaten premiership success this year following the two barren winters of 2017-2018, when Nabiac's Wallamba Bulls claimed back-to-back titles under the coaching supervision of Lee Sullivan and Jim Wilson.
The Dolphins' defeats coincided with McCarthy's absence on an 18-month sabbatical with wife, Jenny, in the Italian Alps town of Perugia following his retirement from school teaching at Gloucester High School.
Back in coaching harness, McCarthy engineered an outstanding season with the Dolphins, emerging from a 25-all first-game draw with the Manning River Ratz to remain unbeaten, the club's ranks swollen by the return of 10 former players and the unprecedented arrival of four Tongan forwards, eventually claiming the grand final, 47-14, against Manning River.
The tragedy of the Kennards Hire grand final was the Ratz' loss on the eve of the game of their two play-makers, outstanding goal-kicking fullback Ricky Campbell and crafty captain-coach, five-eighth Mitch Carter.
Likewise with McCarthy's appointment, New Zealander, Peter Strickland, was retained as coach of the Dolphinettes, the club's women's team, still valiantly striving for glory after two introductory years.
Ron McCarthy has been involved in some coaching capacity with the Dolphins since rugby was "reborn" in the region in 2004 through the drive of two former presidents, the late Bruce Greensill and then Stephen Bromhead.
McCarthy was in charge when an under-strength Dolphins, containing two 15-year-olds, one never having played rugby, met Coffs Harbour and was trounced in the then full zone competition of 2007.
The score was recorded as 105-0.
"Strangely enough, I believe that defeat was the making of us. The club could have folded, but the young players stayed with us and the next season we won the initial premiership of the Lower M.N.C. competition," he recalled.
Communication with the four Tongans has been limited, although 'Hau' Honema'u, the blockbusting No 8 who shared last season's 'most exciting new player' award with another hefty, hard-running forward, Blake Polson, told McCarthy: "You coach, I play next season!"
Elsewhere, in a most pleasing development, the Gloucester Cockies are optimistic of fielding a men's team next season, ending the disruptive monthly 'bye round' scenario of this year's five-team competition.
The Old Bar Clams will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their 2009 premiership triumph this Saturday, November 30, at the club's watering hole, the Old Bar Tavern, from 5pm, and then their annual Christmas party at the Tavern on Sunday week.
Newly-elected president, Brian Groughan, said: "It is always good to see our former premiership players and club supporters again. We are asking everyone to wear club colours and club gear."
Pleasingly, he is confident the Clams will field a strong run-on team next season with some reserves.
As of last Friday, six first grade clubs have indicated they wish to continue in the Lower Mid North Coast competition, although Gloucester played without a men's team last year, continuing with their premiership-winning women's team of 2018.
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