Narrandera Lizards Rugby League seniors side will step into this year’s ProTen 2019 Knockout with a blend of young recruits and experienced players.
The knockout at Goolgowi on May 11 features the six teams of Narrandera, Barellan, Goolgowi, Hillston, Ivanhoe and Rankins Springs.
Narrandera has drawn to play Goolgowi at 1pm and last year’s winners Rankins Springs at 2.40pm. Barellan Rams will play Hillston in the opening match at 10.30am and Ivanhoe at 12.10pm.
Narrandera Club vice-president and playing co-coach Troy Prior said the Knockout acted as the first hit-out for the year for the seniors team before the competition gets underway.
Prior said Narrandera would have a good mix of experienced players and youth in 2019 line-up.
“Most of our players are 30 years of age plus and we have some Aussie Rules players also playing league for us,’’ he said. “Our young players stepping up are Jermaine Morgan, Blake Ingram and Bryce Sanders – we will unleash them out in the centres and in the back line for a bit of speed.
“These boys have some size about them so can step into the forwards if needed but we may bleed them into the game.
“Our coach Gary Ingram has plenty of experience and will lead from the front, and last year’s coach Sean Lyons is back with us again.’’
Up until last year, the Lizards senior football had been in recess but the side emerged as favourites to win the 2018 Proten Knockout.
Prior said the Proten Knockout was a great family and community day.
“There are six teams in the competition and every town will host a game –it gets local footy back out in the bush,’’ he said.
Prior said Goolgowi and Rankins Springs were the two hardest teams to beat in the competition. Despite no pre-season hit out, Prior hopes Narrandera can finish in the top two teams.
“Last year, we were the favourites to win it before anyone had kicked a football and went in with big expectations, unfortunately we didn’t perform up to our best. I’m hoping this year things will turn around.
“Rankins Springs have had a few trial games this year and will be hard to beat. The second game of the round is Narrandera at home against Barellan on June 1 so that will be a good test for us at home.
“It’s pretty good having football back in Narrandera – if there is no senior football, the juniors drift off to other clubs.’’
Prior said long term the club aimed to have a senior side in the ProTen Cup for the next four to five years, and push back into Group 20.
He paid tribute to sponsors Narrandera Bowling Club, Bidgee Boxing, Narrandera Bakery, Narrandera Auto Wreckers, Murrumbidgee Hotel and Narrandera Tyre and Exhaust Centre for helping with the club’s revival.
Meanwhile, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Barellan Rams with their goal set to being a strong contender in this year’s Proten Community Cup season, according to assistant coach Jimmy McDermott.
The Rams have kept the majority of their playing side from last year, with coach Ben Evans and McDermott returning to the helm. While their campaign got off to a slow start, McDermott claims everything is coming together at the right time.
“Things started off a bit slow at the beginning of pre-season, but we’ve had good numbers the last couple of weeks, and the boys are really starting to get together as well,’’ he said.
The Rams also welcome some new faces to the team this year. Rugby union players Campbell Dalton and Brendon Murray have joined the squad and have picked up league well and will fit right in.
“As well as local boys John Evans, Andrew Robertson and Nick Ohlsen are having their first crack at rugby league this year, it will be exciting to see how they take the field,’’ McDermott said.
They also welcome experienced prop Sam Everett, who will add some much needed depth to their engine room.
The Goolgowi Knockout will be the boy’s first taste of rugby league for 2019, with the side yet to have a pre-season hit out.
This year the Rams will celebrate their 20 year anniversary of their 1999 Clayton Cup premiership win. Wearing a heritage stripe for their home game on July 6, these jerseys will be auctioned off after the game.