STINGRAYS Shellharbour Rugby League Club president Scott McLaurin believes the club has taken astep forward after nominating a team in the South Coast Group 7 senior league's third grade competition.
One of the junior competition's most successful clubs, the Stingrays dipped their toe somewhat tentatively in the senior competition when they entered an under-18 team last year. The move ultimately proved a very positive one with the club fielding two senior teams this season.
"Last year it was a matter of trying to capitalise on years of junior development and, even though at this stage last year we only had nine players for 18s, it all worked out well," McLaurin said.
"Junior league tends to have its ebbs and flows, but last year we had more registered players than anyone else, so things are pretty positive in the club.
"Talk of us fielding a third grade has been around for a while, but we thought with a few of last year's 18s now eligible, it would be a good time to give it a go."
Third grade, which will compete in the rejuvenated South Coast competition, will be captain-coached by the vastly experienced Josh Check, who is looking forward to the challenge.
"Our number one aim will be to be competitive and we are passionate about continuing to grow the club," Check said.
"We have been lucky enough to have a couple of experienced guys like Todd Sault, Leigh Clark, Luke Hughes and Lee Harvey coming on board, which will give us some experience and with a couple of 18s plus a few guys who have still been playing OzTag, we are hoping to be very competitive.
"Another massive boost is that we have the experienced Jimmy Brady running our fitness work - to have a guy like him around the players with his passion and commitment, is a great plus for the whole club."
Peter Ellis will again be in charge of the under 18s and he believes the experience gained last season will hold his side in good stead.
"Last year was a very encouraging one for us as we have retained 14 players from last year's team," Ellis said.
"Considering 14 of last year's squad either hadn't played league or had been out of the game for an extended period, to win six games was tremendous."
"These guys are all good mates and with a few from last year's 16s we are confident of a very good season."
The 18s will test their preseason form with a trial against Jamberoo at Flinders Field on Tuesday, March 11 at 6.30pm.