The new-look Crookwell Dogs are in for a baptism by fire this weekend, when they get their 2021 campaign underway against the Jindabyne Bushpigs.
The Dogs didn't play in 2020 due to COVID-19, and have entered this season with a host of new, young players in their roster.
The infusion of youth has driven head coach Bruce Nixon to come up with a fresh game plan for the team. He did not go into specifics about what tactics the Dogs were looking to use, but said it was important for the side to use brains rather than brawn against the Bushpigs.
"We've been working pretty hard at training, we've got a very young squad which is good fun," Nixon said.
"We're playing a different style of rugby, but we're just hoping that a younger side will be quicker on their feet. Jindabyne come with a very set structure and have a very solid forward pack, so we don't need to get into those kinds of battles with them. We need to be smarter than that."
Like Crookwell, the Bushpigs have consistently been one of the strongest sides in the competition in recent years, and regularly made the finals.
Up against a team with such an extensive resume, Nixon understands the threat posed by Jindabyne on every part of the field.
"I think Jindabyne are very well coached, and they set a great platform through their scrum, and they've got some very good backs," he said.
"It's a real standard-setter for us, because Jindabyne have been in the semis nearly every year for the last few years."
The Dogs have entered a rebuilding phase this year, after a number of their players retired after their 2019 premiership or following the outbreak of the pandemic last year.
But rather than bemoaning the lack of experience in his side, Nixon has been invigorated by the change and looks forward to bringing the best out of his young charges.
"I'm as enthusiastic as these guys are," he said.
"You get to a point where you coach a certain way, I've changed how we train and approach games. It's great for the club and I hope people in Crookwell come have a look and support us. I think it'll be a surprise what these young fellas can do.
"It'll be good if the community can come have a look at these young guys and support them. They're coming out of school football to play against experienced guys."
The Crookwell Dogs will take on the Jindabyne Bushpigs in round one of the ACT South Coast Monaro competition this Saturday, April 17, from 2.30pm at Crookwell Memorial Oval.
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