STEVE Kidd has walked into Kurri Sportsground countless times over the years, but he knows that when he arrives at the ‘‘Graveyard’’ on Saturday it will be entirely different.
The former Bulldogs player and reserve-grade boss will coach Cessnock today for the first time against a fellow Newcastle Rugby League opponent in the annual Charity Shield.
Since its inception in 2003 the shield has become a highlight of the competition’s pre-season, with both clubs recording five wins each.
Matches will start at 8am with the under 6s, and continue through to first grade at 7.20pm.
While the match is considered a trial and is a fund-raiser for the Hunter Westpac Rescue Helicopter, there is never much charity between the fiercest rivals in Newcastle league.
‘‘I’m pretty comfortable with the decision to go up there, and to me I’m treating it like a trial,’’ Kidd said.
‘‘I have a job to do and I’m taking the emotion out of it and making sure we stick to our structures and really take a lot of the game in instead of outside influences.
‘‘I’m sure I’ll cop some stick, but it’s all in good fun, and after the game I’ll have a few beers with the boys.’’
The Goannas have lost star hooker Terence Seu Seu and second-rower Dan Metcalfe to Maitland and prop Brendan Worth to Kurri Kurri over the off-season.
Their new recruits include hooker Chris Adams (Knights), half Jacob Briggs (Macquarie) and prop Karl Saena (South Sydney under 20s).
Kidd said he was particularly interested in seeing Saena in action tonight as the front row remains a problem position for Cessnock.
‘‘He’s a very big unit and seems to move well, so it will be interesting to see how it goes,’’ he said.
The Goannas will be without captain and five-eighth Riley Brown, wingers Chris Pyne and Ethan Ernst and forward Jacob McKendry.
Kurri will unveil their new halves pairing of former Canterbury and Knights junior Neenan Simpson and Blake Birch (Maitland), and Ethan McKenzie will play fullback in place of Nathan Ross, who has signed with the Knights.
New Bulldogs coach Phil Williams is anxious to see how his side adapts to the structural changes he has made during the off-season.
‘‘If we get our system or pattern of play in place, I know it’ll work,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I’ve done it before, and that’s what the boys have got to learn. The system is going to be a little different to what they’ve done in the last couple of years.’’
BACK IN TOWN: Steve Kidd.