Port Blacks ready to cut inner mongrel loose


Port Kembla Blacks return to first grade South Coast AFL on Saturday with coach Brad Yates declaring finals footy is on their radar.

After two seasons in reserve grade - winning the minor premiership and making the grand final both years - Port Kembla are back in both grades and join Albatross in a nine-team first-grade competition.

Last season's wooden spooners Wollondilly joined a Sydney competition, but the addition of Port Kembla and Albatross means four games each week and a bye in an 18-round season.

Yates, who coached Figtree first grade last season, says his team can make an immediate impact on their return to the top grade.

"Finals footy is definitely the goal," he said.

"The numbers we've had at training have built and built, and the mongrel that the Blacks are famous for is back. I reckon we'll be a force this year.

"There's a great feeling about the club. Teams will know they'll have played Port Kembla."

Yates played senior footy in some of the Blacks' best years in the mid-90s and has been a senior and junior coach in South Coast AFL for 20 years.

"The first day at training in February, we had six guys at training and I said we've got to be fair dinkum to make this work.

"Peter Bright [Port president] made a few calls and a couple of days later 26 guys turned up.

"We've had a very high turnout at training and started from scratch to build the club up again."

South Coast AFL officials originally wanted Port Kembla to field only a first-grade team but with more than enough talent for the club to register a first and second-grade team for 2014.

Yates says he has a strong list and believes wingman Brendon Hasiuk, key defender Paul Bright and Aiden Chilcott will be among their important players.

The Blacks picked up players from Figtree including Kallem Heycott, a talented centre-half forward, while among a dozen new players big things are expected of rising star Zac Jovanivski.

"The senior side has a different look with new logo, new merchandising and new playing jumper. Everyone's jumped on board and can't wait for the season to start."

The Blacks host Figtree at Kully Bay Oval on Saturday; the season kicked off on Friday with Nowra at home to Bomaderry.

On Saturday the clash between Wollongong and Shellharbour moves from Jock Brown Oval to West Street Oval, Nowra, while Kiama host Northern Districts.

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