By GREG WHITE
NAMBUCCA HEADS president Anthony Field has quashed rumours that captain-coach Willie Baker is being forced to step down due to work commitments.
"As a matter of fact, I'm having a cup of tea with Willie right now," Field said, when the Coffs Coast Advocate called, "and we're planning the fitness and training schedule for the coming week."
"Willie is firmly the man in charge."
So there goes another wild rumour, one of many that have afflicted every club in the buildup to the rapidly approaching Group 2 season.
But Field did confirm 'import' centre Cameron Blair, originally announced as a coup signing from premiers Macksville, is no certainty to wear red, white and blue colours.
"Cameron trialled last week with the Eagles and he's trained with our squad," he said.
"As an elite player there won't be any pressure on him.
"He'll be allowed to make his mind up and play with the club that best suits him."
Field is boldly predicting an outstanding year for the Roosters under coach Baker, after narrowly missing the playoffs in 2005 due to a devastating string of injuries.
The worst of those injuries ended the year prematurely for Geoff Batten but Field has positive news on the evergreen utility star.
"It was an awful injury but I think it surprised Geoff more than all of us how well it's mended.
"He's in training again and while he's made no definite commitment, he'll put pressure on the leg in a trial in about a month, then see how he feels."
Nambucca will have the best group of candidates emerging from juniors of any club in the competition with as many as eight of 2005's under 18 premiership winner's at Baker's disposal.
"Some will need experience but we think Taylor Hamilton-Giggins and Brenton Dyer are ready for immediate first grade selection," Field said.
Also joining the club from Bega is rookie front rower Kale Burton, but the Roosters already know it's just for one year.
"He's contracted to Redcliffe from 2007," Field advised.
"We also have Eric Kelly (cousin of Wes) coming over from Armidale and a group of players joining us from the Lake Cargelligo area.
"Somebody mentioned recently that even at this stage of the season, the reserve grade forward pack is better than the one we used last year in first grade."
What Field found particularly pleasing about the good health of the Group was a comment made last week by secretary, Peter O'Grady.
By February 2005, O'Grady had logged over 250 player movements.
At the same mark this year, only 66 players have applied for new bases.
"Last year was a vintage one for emerging talent," Field enthused.
"A handful went to the city, but every club will have bright prospects coming out of under 18's into open grade.
"To hear the majority will stay with their home clubs is fantastic news for all of us."
Nambucca Heads have their first official Group 2 hit out with the trial against Gimbisi Valley on March 19.