WAUCHOPE Blues second-rower Mat Bird will provide the leadership for his side in their Group 3 season opener with Port City Breakers on Sunday.
The 23-year-old is one of a handful of older heads in a young Wauchope side who are rebuilding in the hope of returning to the top of the competition.
Bird will hold one of the keys to the result at Lank Bain Sports Complex and knows the Blues face a tough challenge.
“We’ve got a relatively young team this year so Port have labelled themselves as the top of the tier around here at the moment so it will be good to compete with them and give them a good shake,” he said.
Bird said the team was currently developing and rebuilding for a tilt at the title in the next few years.
“A lot of the young blokes haven’t played grade footy before, so it will be good to get a few games under their belt against tough opposition like Port,” he said.
Port have labelled themselves as the top of the tier around here at the moment.
“It’s a good learning curve; everyone wants to play a high standard which toughens you up.”
The 2016 Group 3 representative second rower said the clash with the Breakers provided them with an opportunity to see where they needed to improve.
“After this weekend we’ll know where we’re at for the competition and what we need to work towards,” he said.
Breakers coach Dan Kemp was wary of the impact Bird could have, but said it was important not to focus on one specific player.
“Mat’s a good footballer, there’s no doubt about it but we’ll try not to treat him any differently to anyone else,” he said.
“He’s got a high work rate and is a player who usually runs a really good inside-out line.”
Unlike the start of last year, Kemp will have most of his full-strength squad at his disposal.
Mat’s a good footballer, there’s no doubt about it.
“Everybody knows the injury concerns we had last year in the first 10 rounds so it’s good to have almost everyone available,” he said.
Mitch Fowler and Jarrod Robbins are the only two who will miss the trip west.
Robbins is out for an indefinite period after a blood infection from hitting his thumb with a hammer, while Fowler should return in a month following an arthroscope.
“We don’t know if Jarrod will be back at all this year,” Kemp said.
“He’s been on a drop for six weeks after he had a blood infection from hitting his thumb and the nail fell off, but somehow it got into his blood stream.
“I went and saw him last week and he’s usually a really solid, healthy looking bloke and I reckon he’s lost about 15 kilos.”