Bill Coffey remains part of the folklore at Merewether Carlton.
Scoring the match-winning try for the Greens in the south-east corner of No.1 Sportsground in the dying minutes of the 2011 grand final.
Seven years on from that magic moment, which has included a four-season stint at Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union rivals Wanderers, Coffey is now back in Merewether’s first XV.
After arriving at Towson Oval mid-year and playing half-a-dozen games in the lower grades, he has been named to start on the wing in a top-four clash against Maitland at Marcellin Park on Saturday.
“This will be his first, first-grade game back with us,” Merewether co-coach Trent Considine said.
“He [Coffey] has played a handful in thirds and was in reserves last week. He had to earn his stripes again.”
Coffey will be part of a new-look Greens backline with captain Jay Strachan, fly-half Sam Bright, inside centre Thomas Smith and outside centre Joseph Crawford all returning.
The quartet have been missing for various reasons the last fortnight – injuries to Strachan (knee), Bright (shoulder) and Smith (concussion) while Crawford was away in South Africa representing Australia at the World University Championships Rugby Sevens.
Tight-head prop Wendall Wilhelmus also comes back from a hamstring strain.
“It’s virtually a whole new backline,” Considine said.
“But these guys are influential players and we want to make sure they’re playing in September.”
Merewether are third on the competition ladder, five points in front of fifth-placed Maitland, slipping down after starting the season with eighth straight victories.
Considine said “toughness” would be the key element away against the Blacks.
“We really need to aim up,” he said. “We want to get back to how we were playing before and hopefully a few of these changes will allow us to do that. We’ve gone away a bit from that simple rugby.”
The Blacks, outside the unavailability of Samoa A representative and former Merewether prop Turi Uini, are virtually at full strength coming off the bye.
Elsewhere in round 14 encounters on Saturday and Rhys Dombkins returns to No.2 Sportsground for the first time since leaving Wanderers for Nelson Bay this season.
Eighteen-year-old Caleb Hopping will make his first-grade debut for Hamilton after being selected to play in the Hawks’ second-row against Singleton at Passmore Oval.
Jordan Simonovich in for Bradley Gibson was the sole change named for Southern Beaches while University have listed Lewis McKechnie at hooker with Dane Le Rougetel sliding to loose-head prop. The fixture takes place at Ernie Calland Field.
Lake Macquarie has the bye, but the Roos could have the services of journeyman Marty Lisiua for the rest of this season after NHRU officials recently received a clearance.
The 1995 Anderson Medal winner was 47 when he featured in his last rugby union game, the 2015 grand final for champions Hamilton.
In more recent campaigns he crossed codes to link with sons Jonah Lisiua and Terence Seu Seu at Kurri Kurri rugby league club.
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