The Gloucester Magpies are gearing up for their toughest challenge so far in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League C Grade season when they take on East Maitland on Saturday in round seven action.
Undefeated in the early stages of the 2017 season, East Maitland have conceded just 34 points and have looked dominant.
This hasn’t deterred Magpies captain-coach Andrew Middlebrook who has backed his troops to be competitive against the competition leaders.
“This will be our toughest challenge so far,” Andrew said.
Former Wingham Tiger Brad Staff will make his Magpies debut in this match, who Andrew said will bring a wealth of experience to the side.
Singleton recruit Michael Hamson is set to miss the next six weeks through injury.
Sitting in the middle of the competition table with two wins under their belt, Andrew said he was proud with the commitment shown by the team this season.
He said depleted numbers haven’t dampened the Magpies spirit, shown through their 20-all draw with Paterson River in the season opener.
They had just 14 players for the contest.
“We haven’t had much luck with injuries but we’re battling on,” Andrew said.
The Magpies had a slow start to their 2017 campaign, with 19 players unavailable from last year.
He credited Raymond Terrace export Novan Monroe and local forward Corbin Predabon for being standout and consistent players in the early stages of their 2017 campaign.
News that former Newcastle Knights fullback Robbie O’Davis linked with the club has sparked quite the buzz around the club and the town.
The 44 year old played 223 games for the Knights (which included two premierships), 12 games for Queensland at State of Origin level and eight test caps for Australia.
Andrew said the presence of Robbie, and his brother Glen, have made the Magpies once again the “talk of the town.”
“There is a real upbeat feeling here,” Andrew said.
Robbie is yet to don the black and white jersey but has watched a few of their games this year.
He will instead turn out for an Australian all-stars side this weekend in Bowen, Queensland as part of a charity game following Cyclone Debbie.
Kick off against East Maitland will be at 3 pm at Bert Gallagher Oval in Gloucester.