Group 20 rugby league
TULLIBIGEAL-Lakes United have been stunned by the surprise departure of star prop Trenton King just days out from the start of the club's Group 20 premiership defence.
King, who was linked with a move to the Black and Whites during pre-season, informed the club of his decision to leave earlier this week.
The Area News understands King initially sought a move to Group Nine side Wagga Kangaroos, but it has since fallen through and he is now likely to join one of TLU's Group 20 rivals.
"It's a bit of a downer, five days out from the season opener to find out your starting front row partner's gone," captain-coach Brent Pike said.
"But it's his decision so it's up to him what he wants to do."
The Sharks also recently lost talented winger Alex Ronayne, who left Lake for work reasons and now plays for the Nyngan Tigers - but they have regained veteran forward Michael Dodson, who has made himself available for Sunday's home clash against the Bidgee Hurricanes.
"I don't know what the go is but I was told (Tuesday) he's come back," Pike said.
Pike and Chris Jordan will start up front for TLU, who had the bye in the opening round, with Dodson and Dan O'Connor helping fill out an impressive bench.
But the Sharks won't be anywhere near their best given it has been nearly a month since the side's last match, the Paul Kelly Memorial Shield final win over Hay.
"It's a later start than anyone else and I think it's a good thing we get that extra rest," Pike said.
"I still reckon we're not real fit.
"We'll be struggling for our first 80-minute game, but premierships aren't won at this time of year.
"It took us six months to get it right last year so I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same again."
Pike expects the Hurricanes will be keen to show their 26-22 loss to the Black and Whites last weekend was a one-off bad performance, and not endemic of their pre-season struggles.
"I'm pretty sure they'll come out firing, wanting to roll the premiers first up," he said.
"They're going to be tough but if we stick to our patterns and keep our discipline I'm confident we'll come away with the points.
"It's going to be good to get back out there at Shark Park and get amongst it again."