Port legacy continues with Group 7 switch

GROUP 7

The 2013 rugby league season will mark another milestone in the long history of the Port Kembla Blacks.

After almost a century of competing in the Illawarra competition, Port Kembla will play in neighbouring South Coast Group 7 this year.

One of Port's favourite sons in the modern era, talented goalkicking half-back Mark Simon, will have the reins as captain-coach this season and next when the Blacks celebrate their centenary of rugby league.

"Training has been pretty good. We're struggling a bit for numbers, but I think everyone's a bit scared that it's a bit early," Simon said yesterday.

"The players that we have got have been training really good. We've got a few young guys who have come up through the Port junior ranks."

Simon sees the switch from Illawarra to Group 7 as a fresh challenge and he is looking forward to the captain-coach role.

"It's something I've wanted to do for a while," he said.

"It's good to get the opportunity to do it. I've got maybe two years left in my playing career.

"What better way to finish than to be captain-coach of Port.

"I said I'd do it for two years. They wanted me for two years. They didn't want a short-term thing."

Of special significance in 2014 will be Port's centenary year.

"That's also a big part of why I wanted to go again," Simon said.

"It's a big thing to be a part of. Big club, big history there with the club.

"So to be coaching and hopefully playing well still in their 100th year would be a privilege."

Simon thinks that Port can come to grips with the longer travelling distance in Group 7.

"I think it's something that we've just got to get used to," Simon said.

"At the end of the day we've only got [long trips to] Batemans Bay and Milton. The others aren't too far away ... Gerringong, Berry, they're not too bad.

"A lot of other people have been saying it's a different competition, but at the end of the day it's first-grade footy.

"Whether it's Illawarra, Group 7, Group 6, whatever, it's first-grade footy.

"They're hardened footballers. So it's going to be a good challenge for us to step up.

"I'm sure the other clubs that are playing against us will want to beat us," he added.

"Hopefully in our first year we can be competitive."

The Blacks aim to field teams in first and second grades and under-18s competitions.

"We are still trying to get some more 18s down to training," Simon said.

Port train at Noel Mulligan Oval at 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Anyone interested in playing for the Blacks can contact Rick Lyddiard on 0408 973 457 or email portrlfc@ozemail.com.au.

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