Tigers host Taree

WINGHAM will host Taree City in the opening round of the Group Three Rugby League pre-season competition on Sunday.

The Tigers rounded off preparations for the pre-season with a trial against Shortland at the Wingham Sporting Complex before a handy crowd on Saturday.

It was a big day of football, with Wingham also hosting under 16 and 18 Country Championship matches between Newcastle Rebels and the East Coast Dolphins. Wingham players Taj Wood and Shannon Mullay were members of the East Coast under 18s. Newcastle won both matches.

New Zealand imports Marlon Purcell and Solomona Sia had their first game in Tigers colours in the trial against Shortland.

Purcell is an outside back with Sia a front rower. Both impressed Wingham coach Jamie Moorehead, although they struggled somewhat in the conditions.

“They both said they’d never played a game in heat like that,’’ Moorehead smiled.

“But other than that they settled in pretty well.’’

Moorehead said it was a good trial and he was particularly impressed with his forwards, with Shannon Ellem getting through a power of work. He played his strongest side for two of the four quarters, giving some under 18s and reserve graders a run in the other two.

“We made it through unscathed so that was another positive,’’ Moorehead said.

The Group Three competition proper will start the weekend of April 8 and 9.

Wingham will have a tough first-up assignment, playing premiers Port City at Port Macquarie on Saturday, April 8.

There will be a general bye over Easter with the competition resuming on Sunday, April 23, when the Tigers travel to the Harry Elliott Oval at Tuncurry to meet the Forster-Tuncurry Hawks.

Wingham’s first game at home will be on Sunday, April 30, against grand finalists Port Macquarie.

Group Three under 23s will meet Group Two in the revamped Country Championship at Sawtell on Saturday, April 22.

Matt Shipway from Port Macquarie will be the Group Three coach, with Gary Bridge from Taree his assistant. Scott Jacklin from Taree will coach the women’s league tag side.

Wingham utility back Matt Bridge had a strong game in the trial against Shortland at the Wingham Sporting Complex.

Wingham utility back Matt Bridge had a strong game in the trial against Shortland at the Wingham Sporting Complex.