There’s a significantly positive vibe around the Boggabri and District Rugby League Football Club at present, with a genuine belief among the coaching staff and playing group that the Kangaroos’ first grade side can play finals footy in 2021.

After returning to Group 4 Rugby League’s top grade in 2018, Boggabri finished at the bottom of the ladder that year then received the wooden spoon again in 2019, with only a handful of wins combined across those two seasons.

However, the club has since been building towards something bigger and better under the guidance of head coach Shane Rampling.

2020 promised to be the year that Boggabri would bounce back, but it was not to be after last year’s Group 4 season was abandoned amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The club has retained most of its 2020 roster and has also welcomed some new additions to its ranks and is now ready to rumble.

All three Kangaroos teams kick off their seasons with a local derby on Saturday when they host Gunnedah Bulldogs at Jubilee Oval in first grade, reserve grade and ladies’ league tag.

Rampling said that the club’s top grade team was happy to enter the season carrying the underdog tag for round one, but said that he believed it would grow into a side which would play finals footy.

“We are very excited that footy’s back, it’s been a long 12-plus months without footy but we are looking forward to running around Jubilee against arch-rivals Gunnedah and hopefully causing a bit of an upset,” Rampling said.

“We’ve talked about our goals as a group and our main goal is to get into the semis.

“We’ve been wooden spooners the last two [seasons] but we’ve improved each year and I think that a top four spot is a realistic opportunity this year.

“Gunnedah will be a good test for us this weekend, they always have a fairly strong side.

“History says in this game we’re the underdogs but we’ve been going about our business, training really hard and putting a few new combinations together.

“We’ve got a few new boys from Narrabri who have come down for this season to give us a bit of leadership, a bit of X-factor, especially in the backs.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we put all of our hard work at training into an actual game.”

Rampling said that a new-look halves combination between new signings Josh Trindall (halfback) and Kaylan Murray (five-eighth) would boost the Kangaroos.

“Traditionally we’ve been strong in the forwards and we addressed that we needed to bring in some attacking players out wide and a bit of guidance in the spine,” he said.

“Josh and Kaylan’s combination is really exciting to watch.

“We’ve also added Rob Doolan and Isaiah Adams out wide who have got speed. They’ve added attacking flair to what we already had.

“I can’t wait to see those new combinations at work for a full 80 minutes.”

Leading the side around the park will be gun hooker Matt Gillham who will captain the Kangaroos again in 2021.

“He’s a local boy, everyone respects Matt,” Rampling said.

“He’s done a great job, he leads from the front at training and he’s really come out of his shell.

“I knew he’d make a good skipper and he’s living up to that potential.”

Another newcomer to the club, Narrabri’s David Toomey, is the reserve grade coach for 2020 while the ladies’ league tag team will be coached by Jason Kemp again this year.

On Saturday, the ladies’ tag team will kick the day off at 12pm with the reserve grade game to follow at 1.10pm and the first grade match set to kick off at 2.50pm.

The Kangaroos’ 2021 Group 4 Rugby League draw is as follows:

Round 1 – May 1 v Gunnedah Bulldogs (H); round 2 – May 8 v Moree Boars (H); round 3 – May 16 v Narrabri Blues (A); round 4 – May 22 v North Tamworth Bears (A). Ladies and reserves v Manilla (A) on May 23; round 5 – May 29 v Werris Creek Magpies (H). Ladies and reserves v Barraba (H); round 6 – June 5 v Kootingal Roosters (A); round 7 – June 19 v Dungowan Cowboys (H); round 8 – June 26 v Gunnedah Bulldogs (A); round 9 – July 4 v Moree Boars (A); round 10 – July 17 v Narrabri Blues (H); round 11 – July 25 v North Tamworth Bears (H). Ladies and reserves v Manilla (H); round 12 – July 31 v Werris Creek Magpies (A); round 13 – August 8 v Kootingal Roosters (H); round 14 – August 14 v Dungowan Cowboys (A); semi-finals – August 28 and 29; preliminary final – September 4; grand final – September 12.

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