By VINCE RUGARI
Group 20 rugby league
VETERAN Waratahs forward Tim Rice will link up with childhood friend Michael Henderson at Group Nine club Temora this season.
The 15-year club stalwart leaves Griffith with a heavy heart but admitted the opportunity to play alongside former NRL star and fellow 'Tahs junior Henderson, who was appointed Dragons captain-coach at the start of the year, was too good to pass up.
Rice will play for Temora at next weekend's West Wyalong Knockout and will start the season with the Dragons, but has left the door slightly ajar for a possible 'Tahs return before Group 20's registration cut-off on June 30.
"I'd never play for another Group 20 side," he said.
"It's just an opportunity and it might be the only chance I get - I'm 30 this year and I've spent 15 seasons with the Waratahs.
"I've been over a couple of times to train now and it all seems pretty good, and you'd like to think Hendo's got a few good ones (players) over there.
"I'm not 100 per cent sure - I think I'll stay over there, but the 'Tahs are still in the back of my mind."
The reason the Waratahs still tempt Rice is because of the arrival this week of newcaptain-coach Kose Lelei, who coincidentally played with Henderson last year at the Illawarra Cutters.
Lelei moved back to Griffith this week and took his first training session last night at Exies Oval, and has been tasked with the job of rejuvenating a struggling Waratahs outfit that barely dodged the wooden spoon last year.
"I think they'll be all right this year, to be honest," Rice said.
"Kose's pretty handy and his brother Niko is a pretty good player too. They go real well.
"He won the comp with us in 2008 and I was still in contact with him when he was in Sydney last year.
"Kose came after I spoke to Hendo and I said I'd come over and play, and I don't want to let him down."
Henderson told The Area News that Rice was also coaxed to move to the Dragons by his hunger to win another premiership, a prospect which looks far more likely with Temora this year than with the Waratahs.
"That was a part of it - there's been a few bad years out there," Henderson said.
"When you're not enjoying your footy, it's hard, and it's probably not been the most enjoyable last few years.
"He'll be good for us too - he's a good player, a big hard-running bastard, which is what we need.
"I was best man at his wedding, played with him all through the juniors - we're both getting a bit long in the tooth so we're running out of time to do it."