Redmen flanker Billy Whalan is set to play against the Port Pirates.
Redmen flanker Billy Whalan is set to play against the Port Pirates. Gary Nichols

RUGBY UNION: Tough round one road test for Redmen

RUGBY: Two coaches with old-school values, one team with proven credentials, the other entering unknown territory.

That just about sums up the much-anticipated clash between Port Pirates and the Grafton Redmen to be played at Stuart's Park tomorrow in the opening round of the Mid North Coast rugby competition.

After falling at the final hurdle in last year's grand final, Port will be looking to take it one step further this year under the guidance of new head coach Stewart Robertson, and there isn't any better first round test than a collision with a hungry Redmen outfit.

Despite a disappointing 2015 campaign in the Far North Coast competition, Grafton will be out to prove the doubters wrong with a strong showing against Pirates.

At first glance Port appear to have the firepower to worry the Redmen who have struggled for consistency in recent years.

Add to that declining numbers at pre-season training coupled with the loss of key players and you have a club with early optimism being replaced by a club with increasing concerns.

Redmen coach Ray Collie admits it will be a hard road trip for his new-look side but also a chance to gauge how competitive Grafton will be in the southern zone.

"It's a tough game first up," Collie said at training during the week.

"We haven't played against a Port side since about 2001. Obviously they have a good side being last year's grand finalists.

"It will be a defining moment for us, to see where we sit in the competition."

Like Collie, Pirates coach Stewart Robertson was unsure of how his side will shape up against Grafton who he last coached against in 1999.

"They (Grafton) were always a physical side and having them back playing in the Mid North Coast zone is a real plus for the competition."

Robertson said he was pleased with his sides pre-season form.

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