By MITCHELL DALE
SCHOOL is back in and although the prospect of calculus and Shakespeare won't have all schoolboys jumping for joy, they can at least look forward to the return of the Coffs Harbour High School Rugby Union 10s.
Every Friday night from tomorrow, students from eight Coffs Coast high schools will drop their text books, grab the footy boots and head out to Rugby Park for the 10-a-side competition.
John Paul College, Bishop Druitt College, Toormina High, Coffs Harbour High, Woolgoolga High, Dorrigo High, Orara High and Coffs Harbour Senior College will take part in a 10-a-side competition in term one and a 15-a-side competition in term three.
Reigning champions in both the 10-a-side and 15-a-side formats, John Paul College will start early favourites, although competition coordinator Des Hoy said a number of schools would be out to knock off the premiers.
"John Paul College will take some beating, but it is going to be a very tight competition," Hoy said.
"Schools like Coffs High and Toormina High made good progress last year.
"Toormina were undefeated in the 10s until the final when the wheels fell off a bit, maybe they can go the extra step this year.
"Dorrigo improved a lot last year and will be led by (NSW schoolboys representative) AJ Gilbert, and Woolgoolga had about 20 players at training on Monday."
Hoy admitted the schools that regularly play rugby union ? John Paul College and Bishop Druitt College ? would have a slight advantage over the league-playing schools.
"The two rugby schools would be the obvious favourites because of their depth in rugby," Hoy said.
"They will have an advantage in rucking and mauling and retaining possession.
"The other schools can match them on the paddock with running skills, but they tend to play like sevens or touch, they get rid of the ball rather than locking it up and maintaining possession.
"If they can retain possession, they will certainly put a lot of pressure on the rugby schools."
An added incentive for schools competing in this year's competition will be the chance to be crowned the top school of the Mid North Coast. A sister competition will kick-off in Taree tomorrow, with the winners of the two tournaments to meet in a final later this year
Tomorrow's matches at Rugby Park: Coffs High v Toormina High, Woolgoolga High v John Paul College at 4.30pm; Orara High v Bishop Druitt College, Coffs Harbour Senior College v Dorrigo High at 5.15pm.