Pioneers want spot in grand final
THE Oxley Pioneers under-18 team is back on the road this morning in search of a third-straight appearance in the Country Rugby League championship grand final.
After winning the last division-based title as North Coast in 2007, the Oxley region was formed with the amalgamation of Groups 2, 3 and 4.
Oxley won the first regional event in 2008 before finishing runners-up last season and coach Peter Barrett has been at the helm in every engagement during that period.
Today’s long-distance trek takes them to Bathurst for a semi-final encounter against the Newcastle Rebels.
It’s part of a double-header with defending champions Central Hunter Power taking on the home side, Western Rams, in the other game.
After wins last weekend over the Southern Redbacks 34-10 and Southern Stingrays 22-6, the Pioneers finished top qualifier on the ladder and were then allocated the match against third-placed Newcastle.
The Rebels also had two wins over the weekend, defeating Southern Stingrays 20-8 on Saturday and Bidgee Bulls 28-16 on Sunday.
Oxley coach Peter Barrett said the Rebels – to be skippered by exciting junior Ben Bradley – would be a big test for his boys.
“The Newcastle side was probably the pick of the sides on show,” he said.
“Pioneers will need to play at their best to knock them over and get another shot at the title, which would then be a home match in Port Macquarie as curtain-raiser to City versus Country Origin.”
Woolgoolga will be represented by club juniors Mitch Dockrey and Steve Goodwin which has delighted head coach Steve Gooley.
“Peter Barrett informs me they both played big roles in the success of the team,” he said.
“I’ve heard Mitch is getting a cult following on the wing and the crowds are enjoying his barnstorming runs and tries in the corner.
“Well done to both boys from all of us at Woopi.”
Barrett is relying on another big game from captain Cameron Rodgers with half back Mick Henry from Old Bar Pirates charged with driving the ship.
“The forwards are all strong, especially Will Clarke of Taree City, who has just been signed by Newcastle Knights,” he said.
Young Will is the son of former Macleay Valley prop forward Michael Clarke.