The Maitland Pickers welcome back a stack of regular first graders for Saturday’s clash against Port Stephens at home.
Marco Delapena, Billy Towers and Damien Frize all return from injury after stints on the sidelines.
Delapena has been out for the best part of a month with an ankle complaint which forced him to miss Newcastle’s successful NSW Country Championship defence, while Towers (knee) and Frize (work and illness) have been in limbo for a week and two respectively.
Last year’s premiership winning skipper PJ Ellis will also join his teammates in the middle for the round 14 encounter after being forced to sit out the Pickers 38-18 win against Central Newcastle at Dangar Park on Sunday because of a clause in his contract stopping him from playing against the club he was
initially going to captain-coach in 2012.
On the other side of the ledger the two-time defending premiers will still be without Jade Porter (NSW Country) and Ryan Walker (groin) but Pickers coach Ron Griffiths said he was pleased to welcome back some talented campaigners to the top grade squad.
“Every team goes through it with injuries during the season but having six or seven regular first graders out does hurt,” Griffiths said.
“Fortunately for us at the moment I would rather be getting them back now than losing them now.”
Towers goes to lock and Frize to prop, while Delapena will start as a fresh reserve.
Blake Birch retains his spot in the halves alongside Darcy Etrich while Eni Folau remains in the centres for Maitland. Joby Patten and Rohan McGeachie have been named on the Pickers bench.
The Maitland Sportsground fixture on Saturday kicks off at 3pm.