After a long off-season, Group 4 Rugby League is back in Gunnedah and the Bulldogs couldn’t be playing for a much bigger regular season prize on Sunday.
Gunnedah will clash with Narrabri for the Dallas Donnelly Cup – named in honour of Gunnedah legend John Donnelly – in their season opener at Kitchener Park.
Coach Sean Hayne said his players were champing at the bit for the new season.
“Everyone’s keen to have a game. It’s been a pretty long pre-season after the start got pushed back a little bit,” Hayne said.
“Everyone’s good to go.”
Gunnedah made the preliminary final in 2017 and going into the 2018 season, the Bulldogs have had minimal changes to their lineup.
”It’s pretty similar, there’s a couple new blokes – the majority have played here before and came back,” Hayne said.
“Reece Jaeger and Rodney Orcher are back along with David Smith who’ll be back in the halves with Matt Brady.
“The nucleus of last year’s side is still here.”
Hayne said Gunnedah’s spine was “pretty handy” with Dylan Lake at fullback and Callum Hayne at hooker while Brady will partner Smith in the halves.
Hayne said Smith was a handy acquisition.
“He’s only 23. He played last year down at Group 21 but played at Gunnedah before that,” Hayne said.
“He’s pretty good on his feet and has a good passing game.”
Aaron Donnelly is a major loss for the Bulldogs but Hayne said Jaeger would slide into the opening in the lineup.
“Reece Jaeger brings a lot of experience and knowledge to the side,” Hayne said.
Gunnedah and Narrabri clashed four times in 2017. The Bulldogs won three of those games but the Blues took out the preliminary final.
While Hayne wasn’t aware of the makeup of Narrabri’s lineup for this weekend, he expected the game to be close regardless.
“They’ve always been tight, close games. Whether it’s here or there or how the teams are travelling, it doesn’t matter,” Hayne said.
Hayne was hopeful all four grades would play on Sunday as the club searches for a couple more under 18s players.