The Coopers Far North Coast Dolphins rugby union team take the field on Saturday against Newcastle Hunter at Crozier Field, Lismore, in their sternest test for a number of years.

Players have the opportunity to stake claims for higher selection honours and for the team the outcome determines the level of competition they will face at the new style round-robin championships in Dubbo next week.

“For the first time in many years we have a chance to compete for the Caldwell Cup,” a spokesman said.

“Our opposition is Newcastle, with the loser relegated to the Richardson Shield.”

Players to impress in the pre-match trials campaign include young Casino props Dave Makejev and Craig Connolly, while in the backs, centres Sam Stewart and Trent Gasnier should impress.

Number 8 and new captain Glenn Paisley from Lismore Rugby Club has shown form and maturity to be awarded the leader’s role in 2009.

Far North Coast are Coached by Karl Lupton from Ballina and Mick Russell from Casino.

Team manager Greg Whittle took up the post after retiring as a first grade referee.

The Dolphins and all other NSW Country Rugby Union Zones will head to Dubbo next week for the championships proper in Seniors and Under-20s for two days of hard competition.