MID North Coast Axemen take their first step back to representative rugby after a two-year break when the open grade and under-20 Colts sides contest the Observer Trophy match at Grafton on February 26.
The traditional clash with Far North Coast will lead into a second trial against New England on March 5 at a venue to be announced.
Zone administrator Des Hoy said a coastal beach culture and the hangover from the cricket season means getting players organised early in the year takes extra effort in this region but a formidable line-up will eventually be assembled.
“We still believe playing rep footy at the end of the premiership is a better proposition but we’ve been through that dozens of times and it hasn’t changed a thing, so we’ll throw our hats into the ring and see what develops,” he remarked.
The opens have a round one bye but the Colts travel to Wollongong to play Illawarra on March 19.
“It’s a case of around the world in 80 days but that’s the luck of the draw,” Hoy said.
“In round two, both sides go to Lismore for matches on consecutive days with our opens contesting the Richardson Shield competition.”
Coffs Harbour Rugby Club has a host of candidates in training and eligible for selections and after winning the most recent junior premiership, could dominate the Colts side.
“I expect John Korff to play a big role in the forward pack and actually wouldn’t object if he also tried out for the opens,” Hoy added.
“We may be forced into changes in the top team as there’s doubt about the availability of fullback and captain Jordan Macey, while winger Daryl Thompson is changing his residence and won’t be settled for a couple of weeks yet.
“Unfortunately, David Kikau may not be playing as he’s still in Fiji and if he doesn’t make it back this season, we’ll end up missing one of the best rep players for years.”