Newcastle Rugby League heavyweights Western Suburbs, South Newcastle and Lakes United are among eight teams to take part in the inaugural A-Plus Contracting Kurri Nines on February 24.
The Rosellas, Lions and Seagulls have won three of the past four Newcastle RL premierships and will give the Bulldogs an ideal test going into the season.
The four Newcastle RL clubs will be joined by the Coogee Wombats, Northern Lakes, Mindaribba Memorial, Redfern All Blacks in what promises to be an exciting tournament culminating in the final at 6pm.
“We had aimed for 16 teams to kick off the competition but the quality of the teams we have drawn will more than compensate for the lack of numbers,” Bulldogs director Angie Peterkin said.
“We are confident that it will build to a big annual event, especially with teams such as Wests, Souths and Lakes being really enthusiastic supporters.
“It’s the same date as Knights trial against the Eels in Maitland, which is not ideal but we had locked our date in prior to the Knights announcing the trial.
“It’s probably a bit disappointing that the two Coalfields teams won’t be taking part. Maitland has a social day for their players to coincide with the Knights and while Cessnock’s committee were enthusiastic the playing group were given the option and decided not to play.”
Peterkin said they expected strong support from the Bulldogs and the other Newcastle club’s fans after the long break from footy.
“We’re hoping to attract families for a fun and laid back day out. There will be free amusements for kids including a jumping castle, inflatable water slide, face painting, ice-cream truck, coffee van, food van, full canteen and bar service
“It’s a fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter with gate proceeds going to the service. We’re very lucky to have the support of Andrew Hughes and A-Plus Contracting who are heavily involved in fundraising for the local community and charities such as the WRH,”
Bulldogs coach Ron Griffiths said from a coach’s perspective the competition offered an exciting opportunity to see players’ natural ability outside the confines of normal game structures.
“I believe as a coach a lot of sides, including us, play very structured and the nines gives you a chance to look at players’ natural ability and how they can take advantage of a situation that presents itself,” he said.
“It can highlight different strengths in players which may not come to the fore otherwise.
“I’d like to think there would be a lot of young guys that will get a chance if they continue to train well and show continued improvement.
“For young forwards like Reid Alchin and Jordy Mitchell, who made really impressive debuts last year, it is a chance to take another step.
“It puts them under a bit more pressure defensively as it is a lot harder to defend in nines.”
Games start at noon with the final at 6pm. Entry is $5 for adults, children are free.