Rugby league: Lake Cathie Raiders to host Lower Macleay in opening round of 2021 season

Kicking off again: Ryan Francis and Sam Black can't wait for Lake Cathie's return to the Hastings League on Saturday. Photo: Paul Jobber
Kicking off again: Ryan Francis and Sam Black can't wait for Lake Cathie's return to the Hastings League on Saturday. Photo: Paul Jobber

Ryan Francis and Sam Black were part of Lake Cathie Raiders' first-ever junior rugby league side in 2004 and progressed through the ranks until 2016.

From that point their rugby league paths headed in different directions as a lack of interest saw the Raiders unceremoniously thrown into the Hastings League wilderness.

But the duo have now been reunited at the Raiders as the team prepares for its first match in half a decade when they host Lower Macleay on Saturday.

Black spent a few seasons at Camden Haven Eagles, Port Macquarie Sharks and Laurieton Stingrays from under-13s.

But the decision to rejoin his hometown club was a no-brainer once they received the confirmation they would be readmitted back into the competition.

"I wanted to come back and support the locals a bit and give back because it's where my footy career kicked off," he said.

"But now I'm back here and back where I belong. It means everything to be back at Lake Cathie; making the club reborn is what it's all about."

The former Stingray, Eagle and Shark knows the Raiders are starting from scratch and there is a lot of hard work ahead.

It all starts now.

"It's going to be hard with all the new faces so it will take time to gel, but I'm sure we'll pick up after a couple of games," he said.

Fortunately, some of the club's older heads have been sprinkled in amongst the playing group to help guide the young brigade.

Francis stopped playing in under-16s and now "couldn't wait" to start back up again after a five-year absence from the game.

"When we first came to Cathie there were no under-6s so me and 'Sambo' played in under-8s for three years," he said.

"It was always a dream as a kid when you watched them play on the weekend and thought you might get there one day."

Francis admitted the team was what brought the community together and excitement levels were high ahead of the weekend.

"It's a really good feeling ... I guarantee there will be a big crowd there," he said.

Saturday's first grade game kicks off at 2.30pm at Lake Cathie Sporting Complex.