D-Day for the FNC Dolphins
THE new-look Far North Coast Dolphins will get a baptism of fire this weekend as they look to break a 39-year drought at the NSW Country rugby union championships.
The Dolphins arrived at Nelson Bay yesterday and will know by 8pm tonight how far they have come in a rigorous off-season.
Standing between them and victory drinks are Newcastle Hunter, the Caldwell Cup champions from the past two years.
After finishing eighth of eight last year, the Dolphins are forced to play the big-guns first up, a challenge relished by team manager Dave Arthur.
“We are under no illusion as to the task that lies ahead,” Arthur said.
“But we feel we have put together a strong, competitive side which is ready to play.”
After an off-season where representative rugby on the Far North Coast got serious, Arthur is hoping his squad of hungry men can spring a surprise on the rugby powerhouse that is Newcastle Hunter.
“There is a chance that we might slip under the radar and give them a shock,” he said.
“And if we can knock off Newcastle then we know we are a chance.”
But in a tournament where one loss relegates a team to playing off for the second-tier trophy, catching the champions off guard isn’t likely.
Even still, Arthur thinks his men have improved enough to do some damage.
“We have some very skilled guys out there and they are much more organised than in the past.”
The side has progressed through two trial games which has given coaching staff plenty to work with.
Lennox Head centre Sam Stewart has been named captain of the side but Arthur is looking to experienced lock Jeff Wilson to lead his forwards around.
“Jeff has been here before and proved that he can perform in the big games,” Arthur said.
“So I expect him to show the way at times when we lose direction.”
Should they knock off the defending champs, the FNC Dolphins will progress to the semi-finals at Belmont next Saturday.