Mick Schmiedel has two aims and two hats this rugby league season.
The Gunnedah Bulldogs coach’s first goal starts Saturday 27 February at Cessnock when his Greater Northern Tigers women tackle the Newcastle Maitland Region Knights in a first round Country Championships match.
His second is to win the Tooheys Group 4 first grade premiership with Gunnedah.
They are big targets but you’re in it to win it, is one of his many credos.
He’s also confident the Tigresses can start their campaign with a win at Cessnock after his side beat them last year before the championship season was abandoned.
They lost to Newcastle in a recent trial at Dudley, three tries to one, but Schmiedel is confident they can only improve, especially after Sunday morning’s training session at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School.
“I came away extremely happy,” he said.
“I ended up shortening the session because they took in everything very quickly and their energy level and enthusiasm was very good.
“I didn’t have to go over things a lot.
“They responded to what I wanted.”
Newcastle is going to be a testing team come Saturday and he isn’t shying away from how tough they are going to be on their home turf.
“The first game is going to be hard,” Schmiedel said.
“We know what we are up against though after playing them in that trial.
“It was a close encounter and good efforts by both sides.
“Their three tries came from our errors inside our own 20.
“They are a quality side, too, and a few steps in front of us in their preparation.
“We’ve spoken about it.”
Schmiedel’s pre-season has been busy with regular training sessions at Donnelly Fields in Gunnedah with his Bulldogs.
Numbers at training were “pretty ordinary” after starting in early January but they’ve increased markedly in the past week or so.
“We were a bit light on early,” he confessed.
“A lot of players are working shifts but we won’t be using that as an excuse this year.
“They have had so much free time after not playing last season and been able to do a few other things.
“I’d reckon all the clubs have been in a similar position to us.
“I was looking forward to 2020 (before COVID-19 hit), too.”
Schmiedel had been an arch enemy to the Gunnedah club as both a player and coach with Tamworth City Lions and West Lions.
He was a vital cog in the Tamworth City Lions’ 1994 grand final success when they came from behind to beat the Bulldogs 24-14 at Kitchener Park.
However, he’s always had a healthy respect for Gunnedah’s players and teams over the years, for their toughness, fitness and spirit.
“Always liked them even though we were playing them, they are good people in a local community passionate about its football, that’s what I like,” Schmiedel said.
“Last year I was enthusiastic and wanted to coach them and win a competition.”
Nothing has changed although he recognises the hardship of beating a good side and club such as North Tamworth.
“They have been the yardstick for a while,” he said of the Bears and their six-year Group 4 premiership-winning run.
“They’ve got a good system and there is not a lot of change there in their players.
“Spitter (Brad McManus) is back as coach again.”
The Bulldogs have trial matches against the Port Macquarie Sharks (Gunnedah), Dubbo CYMS (Dubbo) and Singleton lined up in March and April.
- by Geoff Newling