AFTER a breakthrough season last year, co-coaches Steve Haylen and Gary “Bomber” Jones have “high expectations” for the Muswellbrook Rams in 2017.
The Hunter Valley Group 21 club narrowly missed the title, falling victim to the Scone Thoroughbreds in the decider.
And, the mentors don’t see a reason why the Rams can’t replicate that effort – if not go one step better.
“We want to build on the success of 2016,” Jones said.
“I think the competition will be stronger this season, but 90 per cent of our [grand final] squad is back on deck.
“We’ve also added some players to that roster, which will hold us in good stead.
“The new acquisitions not only boost first grade – the club benefits, too.
“In fact, the depth’s incredible.
“Since I’ve returned to the Rams [in 2011], it’s the best I’ve seen.
“It also bodes well for reserve grade.”
Joining the Muswellbrook ranks in 2017 are props Dylan Thorne and Reggie Saunders, playmakers Ewin Bartholomew and James Neyland, along with Jake Hardy.
“We’ve addressed the situation of size in the pack, courtesy of Dylan and Reggie,” Jones said.
“They’re both big lads.
“With Ewin, who is back from Mackay, and James on board, it gives us more experience and depth in the halves.
“It will also take pressure off Cade Boney.
“We’ve got about four or five under-18 players stepping up, too.”
Facing the Rams in round one, at Olympic Park on Sunday, are the Colts from Greta Branxton.
“They are a bit of an unknown quantity,” Jones admitted.
“[Former Ram] Joey Griffiths is captain-coaching the team, so we know they’ll be a good attacking side.
“However, we just need to concentrate on our game.
“It’s been a long pre-season but, overall, we’re happy with everything.
“Our initial goal is reaching the semi-finals.
“Then we’ll go from there.”
Round one draw:
Saturday, April 22 –
5.15pm: first grade, Denman Devils v Aberdeen Tigers
3.50pm: reserve grade, Denman Devils v Aberdeen Tigers
2.35pm: under-18s, Denman Devils v Muswellbrook Rams
1.30pm: league tag, Denman Devils v Aberdeen Tigers
Sunday, April 23 –
2pm: first grade, Muswellbrook Rams v Greta Branxton Colts
12.30pm: reserve grade, Muswellbrook Rams v Merriwa Magpies
11.30am: league tag, Muswellbrook Rams v Merriwa Magpies
2pm: first grade, Scone Thoroughbreds v Singleton Greyhounds
12.35pm: reserve grade, Scone Thoroughbreds v Singleton Greyhounds
11.20am: under-18s, Scone Thoroughbreds v Singleton Greyhounds
10.20am: league tag, Scone Thoroughbreds v Singleton Greyhounds