The Maitland Pickers will be close to full strength against Central Newcastle on Saturday despite being without PJ Ellis.
The premiership winning skipper is unable to play the round five Newcastle Rugby League fixture at Maitland Sportsground as part of his new contract agreement.
Ellis returned to the Pickers last week following two months of negotiations with Central Newcastle, the club he was set to captain-coach in 2012.
Ellis played for the Pickers in their 70-18 drubbing of Port Stephens at Raymond Terrace on Saturday and scored a try with his first touch on the field but last week’s settlement prevents the 35-year-old from lining up against Central in the regular rounds of 2012.
Despite this the Pickers field a predominantly unchanged line up for the clash with front-rower Daniel French and utility back Geordie Connelly coming on to the bench after impressing selectors in reserves.
Connelly, part of the Newcastle Knights under 20s system, will make his first grade debut after several players’ player accolades in previous weeks, while French receives his second cap following a run against Kurri Kurri in the second round.
Pickers coach Ron Griffiths said he was pleased with the preparation from his team this week, which included a specialised session with former NSW Origin coach Graham Murray and an extra fitness session on Wednesday, and is hoping it will hold his troops in good stead.
“We have had good preparation this week,” he said. “We fine tuned the little things and if we can work hard in defence, control the pace of the ruck and have our fair share of possession I am confident we can get the points.”
MAITLAND: 1. JOEL OSBORN, 2. LACHLAN HICKEY, 3. GAVIN QUINN, 4. RYAN WALKER, 5. WILLIE POLEO, 6. JOBY PATTEN, 7. JADE PORTER, 8. ENI FOLAU, 9. DARCY ETRICH, 10. COLBY SCHRADER, 11. BILLY TOWERS, 12. JACOB SINCLAIR, 13. BRENDON HORWOOD, 14. DAMIEN FRIZE, 15. MARCO DELAPENA, 16. DANIEL FRENCH