FORMER Centennial Coal Cup club Blackheath has returned to the eight-team mid-west competition, replacing Portland Colts who have withdrawn this season.
Portland will still host the annual charity knockout tournament at Kremer Park next month before the start of the premiership on April 26.
Reigning premiers Kandos Waratahs had their first hit-out for the year at the Dunedoo knockout tournament last weekend, and found they have a fair bit of work to win back-to-back premierships.
Still without a coach, the Waratahs are in rebuilding mode after mass resignations following their grand final win in 2013.
Although Kandos had no success at Dunedoo, it gave caretaker coach Glenn Sargent the opportunity to run his eye over the new team.
The club has been hit hard with the closure of the local coal mine and many of last year’s players have had to relocate to secure employment.
Kandos were beaten 24-0 in their first game against the strong Dunedoo side from the Castlereagh Cup, and for some younger players in the new-look team it was a step up in class. The Swans were far too good, but against an unstructured young Kandos team they still scored only 24 points.
Another first division club Dubbo Westside were too slick, and defeated the Waratahs 28-0 in game two.
The players’ cohesion was found wanting due to their being thrown together as a new team, but lack of match fitness was a definite issue.
Individually there were some promising displays by Matt Nelson and Bud Howland, and Matt Hundy produced his usual 100 per cent effort in both games.
“The boys all recognise fitness was a lot of the difference against these top teams, but missed tackles and poor attacking options were a direct result of not competing physically in the heat,” Sargent said.
“We have a lot to do – but we also have a lot to work with.”