Coach Paul Butcher is preparing to pull the Axemen out of the doldrums.
Coach Paul Butcher is preparing to pull the Axemen out of the doldrums.

Coffs will be bigger and better in 2007

By GREG WHITE

RUGBY guru Paul Butcher doesn't believe in a summer break while there's a club and representative season to prepare for.

In 2007, Butcher will shoot for a place in history by aiming Coffs Harbour toward an unprecedented fifth consecutive premiership after this year's title matched Port Pirates' winning streak from 1978-81.

"Nothing like giving the boys only three months off," Butcher remarked drily.

"I've got them sweating on Jetty Beach every Tuesday night till the end of January when we step up a gear.

"With 22 turning up for the first session I can't believe how keen they are."

And in news certain to send shivers down the spine of rival clubs, the Coffs Rugby leviathon is destined to be even bigger in the coming season.

"Not many players I can think of will be leaving or retiring," the coach said.

"Actually we've got some fantastic new recruits joining us along with the talent coming out of the junior ranks."

But club business aside, it's the revival of rep fortunes that's on Butcher's mind, particularly the squad he's building and the support team being formed to prepare for combat.

Putting club rivalry aside, newly-appointed Dorrigo Rangers captain-coach Hunter Harley has joined the 'brains trust' along with managers Matt Quirk and Doug Piper, and physiotherapist Rob Hoy.

"We've even recruited recent country player Matt Ellis as water boy," Butcher quipped.

Although player quality in the Zone has been exceptional with numerous Cockatoos and State and Australian Schoolboys being produced, the Axemen have been notorious underachievers.

"I want all players burning with ambition to play for the Axemen," Butcher said. "We don't travel far for games and I'm open to player suggestions how we can maximise our performance on and off the field."

To ease the representative burden the Zone will reward players with accommodation and hundreds of dollars worth of playing gear.

"The rep squads are open to every player between Buladelah and Coffs and I've been in contact with all the club coaches and some individuals to encourage participation and see who'll fit in," he said.

"We want the list of players ready to trial ready by January 6 and then we'll prepare to take the championship."



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