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DEFENDING premiers Kangaroos face a tough start to their 2014 David McCoy Homes Cairns Key Real Estate Cairns District Rugby League A Grade campaign when they host traditional powerhouse Brothers this Sunday at Vico Oval (3pm kick-off).

Roos finally ended their 26-year premiership drought when they beat Suburbs in a memorable grand final last September.

But coach Michael White said a disjointed pre-season had left his side’s preparations far from ideal as they bid to defend their title.

“Unlike last year, it’s not been the pre-season I would have liked,” said White.

“We’ve lost a few players to Northern Pride and other state league teams, which is a great opportunity for them, but obviously makes it more difficult for us.

“With those losses, we’re a bit of a new-look side, but we still have that core group from our premiership-winning squad, so I’m confident we can go well this year.”

Keelan White and Josh Mene have both landed contracts for 2014 with the Pride, while Ethan Gallop has departed and Joel Marama is now pursuing an opportunity with the CQ Capras.

“It will be good to have Keelan and Josh back ahead of this weekend’s game,” White said.

“Although they’ve not been selected by the Pride for this weekend, they’ll come back to us with that extra professionalism they’re now used to, and it will help bring an extra dimension to our lads, who are pretty disciplined anyway.

“We’re also delighted to have another Pride player – Sheldon Powe-Hobbs – back with us, so I still think we’ll be competitive, despite the disjointed preseason.”

Roos will host a new-look Brothers side, who are coached by Pride’s all-time leading point-scorer Chey Bird.

“Chey will bring a lot of determination and renewed confidence to the club, and I think they’ll be a different side to last year, when they were probably disappointed with only making the finals,” White said.

“I think it’s great that we’re playing each other first up – there’s a great rivalry there, and with us being premiers, it adds a little extra spice to the game too.”

In other games on the opening weekend, Ty Williams will make his CDRL coaching debut when his Innisfail side entertain Mossman-Port Douglas on Saturday night.

Mossman, under new coach David Grainer, will be hoping for a better showing in 2014.

Yarrabah and Southern Suburbs should be in for an exciting encounter at Jilara Oval on Sunday, where Suburbs will look to bounce back from their Grand Final loss under new coach Greg Annison.

The Seahawks, the second highest points scorers last season, are again set to thrill their passionate home fans with their open brand of footy.

New Edmonton coach Cameron Miller faces a tough road trip to Tully, who are looking for a better year after missing out on the finals in 2013.

And Atherton, who finished bottom of the ladder last season, will be hoping for better fortunes under new mentor Karle Hammond when they host Ivanhoes at Roosters Stadium.

2014 David McCoy Homes Cairns Key Real Estate A Grade – ROUND 1

Saturday, March 8

Innisfail v Mossman-Port Douglas (6pm, Callendar Park, Innisfail)
Tully v Edmonton (6pm, Tully Showground)
Atherton v Ivanhoes (7pm, Roosters Stadium, Atherton)

Sunday, March 9

Kangaroos v Brothers (3pm, Vico Oval)
Yarrabah v Southern Suburbs (3pm, Jilara Oval)

Mareeba – Bye

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