FOLLOWING a formidable off-season in which recruitment was at the forefront, the Cudgen Hornets believe they have the recipe to return to the top of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.
The key ingredients: 230kg of burly front-row forwards, the experience gained from playing several hundred NRL games, and a pinch of renewed confidence.
The method: secure the signatures of high-profile footballers. Check – former Manly bad-boy turned country rugby league advocate, Craig Field, and his good pal, former NSW State of Origin fullback Matt Sears.
Attract former juniors and club champions back to Cudgen. Check – 115kg premiership (2006) winning props Dan Donovan and Joe Tualla, and 2009 Tweed Heads Seagulls utility Tom Pritchard – who links back up with brother Wayne.
Stir these names into the mix, along with the likes of Cudgen stalwarts Aaron Aitken, Shannon Murphy, Tayne Mulheron and the majority of last year’s squad, and allow to simmer for remainder of the pre-season.
The end result: well, according to Cudgen’s football operations manager, Graeme Lawrence, you get a powerhouse rugby league outfit.
“The buzz around the club is that of excited expectations; everyone believes we can handle the heavyweights this year,” he said.
“All three senior grades are looking the strongest they have in years and a finals berth is definitely on the agenda.”
More players also mean more competition for places so there will be no room for complacency this season.
“Craig (Field) has long been mates with the club, and finally we’ve got him on board and his experience will be invaluable,” Lawrence said.
“He transformed Wagga Brothers from cellar-dwellers to three-time finalists and I’m confident he will have a great impact on our club too.
“Last season there is no doubt we had good players, good footballers, and we took all the top sides to the wire but just didn’t have the ability to overcome them.
“We needed to bulk up in the front row and develop a good halves combination with a proven leader directing traffic and I believe we have achieved just that.”
Further adding to Lawrence’s renewed optimism is the confirmation that the man at the helm, veteran mentor Con Theodossiou, will continue in his capacity as head coach.
Add to his staff, strength and conditioning coordinator Ben White and it is clear the ante has been upped both on and off the field.
“This is Con’s second year with the guys and they really knitted well under him last year so I’m certain that will continue this season,” Lawrence said.
“Ben has come in with heaps of new ideas too and has a whole program worked out to add variety and keep things interesting.”
Cudgen’s confidence will be put to the test in coming weeks with two pre-season trials scheduled – away to Ballina and at home to the Tweed Coast Raiders – ahead of the season-opening clash against Casino in March.
Training begins tonight at Ned Byrne Field at 6.30pm and will be followed by a barbeque.