Greta-Branxton Colts prepare to make a big impact - on and off the rugby league field - in 2020

Greta-Branxton Colts under-14 players Brayden Chaff, Brodie Grant, Bailey Grieve, Oliver McGregor and Hunter ONeill are ready for the start of the 2020 Maitland District Junior Rugby League season.
Greta-Branxton Colts under-14 players Brayden Chaff, Brodie Grant, Bailey Grieve, Oliver McGregor and Hunter ONeill are ready for the start of the 2020 Maitland District Junior Rugby League season.

GRETA-Branxton might be one of the smallest clubs in the region, but the Colts are preparing to make a big impact this year.

More than 150 youngsters will contest the Maitland District JRL season, while the organisation's senior all-age, league tag and under-18s tackle the inaugural Newcastle and Hunter Community Rugby League competition.

Both formats are due to kick off on July 18.

It's a great sign for the Colts, despite the effect coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on sport in 2020, according to secretary Brianna O'Neill.

"We'll field eight sides in the juniors - under-6s, under-7s, under-8s, under-9s, under-10s, under-11s, under-13s and under-14s," she said.

"So, we're only missing the under-12s.

"Due to COVID-19, we did lose a few younger players and, possibly, another team or two.

"But, at the end of the day, we're lucky to be back.

"We are just happy to see the kids on the field again.

"Everyone's keen to play, even in a shortened season."

O'Neill said the Colts were well and truly prepared for the restart.

"We've got our COVID-19 protocols in place," she explained.

"The club had to submit its safety plan and procedures with NSW Rugby League and Cessnock City Council, too.

"We have also spoken to all the players, young and old, before training to ensure they understand what is required of them.

"As well, parents will be allowed to watch matches on game day, which is terrific news.

"We can't wait for the opening round."

Another positive for Greta-Branxton is the enthusiastic, new-look committee on board in 2020 - and beyond.

President Andrew Grieve, senior vice-president Chris Roberts, junior vice-president Tammy Ware, treasurer Sally Grant, first aid officer Nathan Smith and schoolboy representative John Hamson will join O'Neill on the executive.

Then there is the impressive coaching staff, led by former NRL and Super League star Liam Foran, Polish Test captain Alex Kowalski and club legend Mark Bercini.

"Even though it's been a massive eye-opener [for the committee] with COVID-19 rearing its head, we're very fortunate with the people we have on deck," O'Neill said.

"At the beginning of 2020, we boasted sides in firsts, reserves, under-18s and league tag.

"However, in spite of all the changes, we'll still have all-age, under-18s and league tag sides.

"Liam's well-known in local rugby league circles, winning the 2019 (Bengalla Hunter Valley) Group 21 Player of the Year and Halfback of the Year honours.

"Mark (under-18s) will bring a wealth of experience with him in guiding the young guys through our system, while Alex (league tag) proudly represented Poland at the 2018 Emerging Nations Rugby League Tournament.

"Greta-Branxton is in good hands.

"We want the Colts to be a force again."

This story Colts race into new challenge first appeared on The Singleton Argus.