40th annual Challenge Cup football tournament at Nambucca Heads

COMING THROUGH: Ethan Hocking enjoyed a breakout season in the Nambucca Strikers top flight side last season and will be the stronger for the experience. Photo: Christian Knight
COMING THROUGH: Ethan Hocking enjoyed a breakout season in the Nambucca Strikers top flight side last season and will be the stronger for the experience. Photo: Christian Knight

HOST club Nambucca Strikers will use this weekend’s 40th annual Challenge Cup preseason football tournament as an opportunity to bed down a new look roster.

The Strikers have lost “eight or nine” players from last year’s line-up which swept to glory in the North Coast Football men’s second division, player Ryan Flack told the Guardian.

“And we’ve lost some influential players as well with Carlos Justo moving away for work because he’s on the roads. But we’re looking to fill that international spot with a Spanish fella who’s come to the area,” Ryan said.

While there’s been a player drain at Coronation Park, there’s also been renewal – with a swag of youngsters set to migrate from the 16s and 17s squads into the Strikers senior ranks.

“We’ve got some good young fellas coming through so it will be a mix of some young kids and some old heads. Unfortunately we’ve had a few lads who will move solely to the Over 35s this season and that’s a shame.”

Ryan himself is looking forward to getting back on the park in 2018 after last season was cruelled by injury.

“I blew my knee – hyper-extended it – but I’ve been doing the rehab and will be hobbling about with a massive knee brace on,” Ryan laughed.

Together with his brother Dan, the Flack boys will share management of the Strikers top flight squad this season, and will be optimistic after the Nambucca Heads club smashed its way to the North Coast Football premiership in 2017.

With such a new line-up, the worth of this weekend’s Challenge Cup cannot be overstated.

“It will be a good opportunity for us, and we’ll be fielding two men’s teams, second and third division, and I think the women will also have two teams again,” he said.

“There’s 20 teams (in the men’s) which is the most we’ve ever had. And there’s a number of teams coming up from Sydney and they’ll be very hard to beat.”

The preseason tournament will be played across the weekend at the Coronation Park complex, kicking off with the Over 35s men on the Friday night.

The action on Saturday will get underway from 8am, with the Nambucca Strikers 1 side facing Coffs Tigers 1 on field one.