Whiley breaks drought
By MITCHELL DALE
IT'S been almost a decade since Sawtell Panthers centre Dave Whiley pulled on a representative jersey.
But, after working his proverbial off over the summer, Whiley will today break his representative drought when he takes part in the inaugural North v South Group 2 trial at Macksville.
His last taste of rep footy was in 1996 when he ran out for North Coast Under-19s.
That match was hardly a memorable one for Whiley, who busted his right knee, an injury which eventually resulted in a five-year stint on the sidelines.
"I injured my left knee playing for North Coast in '96, I finished the year off but I didn't come back until 2001," Whiley says.
Ironically, the reason for his renewed hunger this off-season is an indirect result of his knee problems.
This year is likely to be the hard-running centre's last, with knee problems set to end his career prematurely.
"I'd say this will be my last year, the knees can't take much more," Whiley says.
While the 27-year-old is happy to get another run in representative circles, he admits most of his pre-season determination has come from a desire to succeed at club level.
"Playing rep is always good and the further Sawtell players go in Group and North Coast sides, the better," he says.
"I know I won't get too many more chances at playing rep.
"I've been a bit more focussed (this off-season), I've worked harder at training and eaten better, so it's nice to get some rewards.
"But the main reason why I have worked harder has been because I am sick of (Sawtell) finishing third every year."
He admits there is a bit of a 'now or never' feel in the Panthers' camp ahead of the 2005 season.
"I think a few of the boys are having one last crack at trying to take Sawtell to the top," Whiley says.
"If we do get it this year, I reckon a few will retire.
"Everyone seems a bit keener this year and we're all training a bit harder. Plus we're all mates, which makes it a lot easier to turn up to training."