THE Port Stephens Sharks are circling Country Firsts captain Sam Wooden as part of their grand plan to lift themselves off the bottom of the Newcastle Rugby League next season.
Former Canterbury second-rower and Country teammate Jamie Feeney is the club’s No.1 target for the captain-coaching job next season and Wooden is considered another priority signing for the cellar dwellers.
At first look, the chances of luring Wooden away from the minor premiers and competition favourites Cessnock, who are financially stronger than the Sharks, would seem to be limited.
But Wooden lives at Fern Bay and Sharks officials have been working tirelessly to boost the coffers of the club through sponsorship.
‘‘We’ve been talking to Sam, and a few other names have been tossed around, so hopefully we can pick them up,’’ Sharks captain-coach James McCabe said.
‘‘We’re not going out to buy a comp, but we want to be competitive.
‘‘We’ve got to be smart and prolong the future of the club.
‘‘But in saying that, in order to be competitive we need to bring in three or four quality players.’’
For the past two seasons Wooden has led Newcastle to Country titles, and he will play a major role in the Goannas’ push to end their nine-year premiership drought next month.
‘‘The seven, nine and one are your big positions and obviously Sam is the best No.1 you can get in Country football,’’ McCabe said.
The Goannas are desperate to keep their star fullback and have opened contract negotiations.
Wooden, hooker Terence Seu Seu and halves Riley and Joel Brown form the best spine in the Real NRL.
‘‘We’d obviously like to keep Sam as he’s a Country captain and he’s part of our network,’’ Cessnock secretary David Cleaves said yesterday. ‘‘We want to keep all the guys from our team this year as it’s their first year together and you can imagine after a few years they’ll be an awesome sight.’’
Regardless of whether the Sharks sign Feeney next season, McCabe intends to hang up the clipboard and concentrate solely on playing.
The utility workhorse has endured a challenging debut season as captain-coach.
The Sharks have registered several forfeits in reserve grade and have failed to be competitive most weeks.
The club won their first game since changing from the Northern Blues to Port Stephens Sharks this year when they accounted for Lakes United 36-20 on Sunday.
‘‘I think we need to get someone in from outside the area as a few of the young guys’ attitudes need to change and someone who doesn’t know them might help,’’ McCabe said.