Aberdeen kicks off Hunter Valley Group 21 title defence against Denman Devils this weekend

THEY were the “surprise packets” in 2017 but the Aberdeen Tigers won’t go unnoticed this season.

The Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League club lifted both first and reserve grade trophies last year.

And, they’re keen to do it all again in 2018 when the competition kicks off this weekend. 

“We’re looking really good,” Aberdeen co-coach Daniel Hoogerwerf admitted.

“We retained the nucleus [of last season’s side]; and, the boys who left, we’ve replaced them with quality players.

“But, Shane [Hasselmann – co-coach] and I are very happy with the pre-season hit-out.”

That could be an understatement from Hoogerwerf, after the Tigers trounced the Singleton Greyhounds and Scone Thoroughbreds, both 22-0, in the Scanlon Shield.

“Yes, it was good to get a couple of wins,” he said.

“However, we were 100 per cent impressed by the defensive effort.

“To have no tries, or points, scored against us was terrific, especially in that heat.”

Aberdeen starts its title defence with a showdown with the Denman Devils at McKinnon Oval on Saturday, with the main fixture at 4.40pm.

“They’re a strong side,” Hoogerwerf said.

“New coach Steve Waetford has picked up some good quality footballers, including a few Aberdeen boys like the Walker brothers and Andrew Nicholls.

“Plus, they’ve got a couple of guys from the Newcastle competition.

“Even though we’re the current premiers, I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure on us.

“We had a new squad last year – and ran fourth on the ladder.

“It just puts us in good stead to build on that performance.”

Hoogerwerf, however, did single out one Tiger for special mention – two-try grand final hero Liam Foran.

“He’s in for a huge season,” he said.

“There’s been no better trainer – and his attitude is unbelievable.

“Liam’s a real asset to the club.

“He wants to help everyone, including the new group of under-18s.

“You don’t get too many guys with NRL experience like that.”

In other first round matches, on Sunday, the Greta Branxton Colts will host the Muswellbrook Rams, while the Singleton Greyhounds tackle the Scone Thoroughbreds at Pirtek Park.