Bobcats primed for premiers
THE Maclean Bobcats first division football team signed off its pre-season trial games with another comprehensive display against a travelling team from Stanthorpe in Queensland.
After drawing with Alstonville 2-2 in their first outing, then trouncing Orara 6-1 in their second trial, the Bobcats finished Stanthorpe equally impressively to the tune of 5-1 on the weekend to round out the pre-season.
However, things will become instantly harder and competitive in the opening round of the season when they face the most daunting fixture of the season - travelling to Coffs Harbour to take on reigning premiers, Coffs United Lions.
The Lions and Bobcats had some epic battles in last year's first division premiership, eventually finishing in first and second position on the table respectively, and this game first-up for both sides could be a pointer for the season ahead.
The Lions triumphed in both encounters by a solitary goal and the Bobcats will be looking to break that winning streak this weekend to start the season on a positive note.
The Maclean side enters the match at almost full strength with only midfield hardman Dane Ellis unavailable.
Strikers Fraser Robinson and Travis Armstrong have looked sharp during the trials and midfielders Aaron Bylos and Jeremy Walters have also looked good, notching up a couple of goals each.
New recruit Izaac Garrad has settled seamlessly into the centre of defence as the Bobcats first division enter the season looking balanced and strong enough across the park to be aiming for the semi-finals and beyond.
It is the Bobcats' reserve grade, or more correctly, youth grade, side that will shape as the unknown quantity this year.
North Coast Football has abolished the old reserve grade competition and replaced it with youth grade, which is an under-19 competition that allows four over-aged players.
Maclean will be using this competition to blood a number of 16- to 19-year-olds yet to play a senior game, so their performance will be interesting to watch as the year unfolds.
Similarly, the Bobcats will field a women's team for the first time in a decade, so their initiation will be equally intriguing.
Youth grade kicks off at 3pm on Saturday with the first division at 5pm at The Den in Coffs Harbour.