by MATT HARRIS
RUGBY UNION: The Gladstone Goats have been dealt a cruel blow on the eve of the CQ rugby season with influential playmaker David West ruled out for the majority of the season.
West is understood to have an undisclosed arm injury which could potentially rule the Goats captain out for more than two months.
Goats coach Sam Carey says the side will do their best to cover the loss of the experienced West.
"It's a huge blow,” Carey said.
"He's probably one of the premier strike weapons in the competition, he's a quality player and especially at this level he stands out even more.
"His on-field knowledge, goal kicking and ability to attack and score tries means you're potentially starting the match seven to 10 points down.
"You never want to be a one-man team but you do miss those top quality players.”
The capable Bill Auld will step into West's captaincy role in the interim with Carey looking towards a key set of experienced players to fill the void.
"I hope to balance out the loss with the experience of Rod Jerd, who really sets the benchmark for the rest of the forwards,” he said.
"Rudolph Wentzel is a very good number nine and brings experience to the field and is a good tackler - Ben Gill brings leadership qualities also.
"But we'll probably have to tinker with the fullback spot.”
The Goats will have a squad of about 25 players for the upcoming season.
They only played the one trial match, against Rockhampton Brothers where they lost by three tries to nil.
The 2017 season will only feature five teams after Rockhampton Colts pulled out of A-grade during the off season.
Carey says the Goats took away some positives from their trial, and are aiming to at least match their third place finish achieved last season.
"Obviously the main goal is to make finals and then take it from there,” he said.
"Being a five-team competition I think that's a realistic option.
"There are mixed rumours about whether (2016 premiers) Frenchville are still strong as they once were so it will be interesting to see how they go.
"We won't really know until the end of the first round to see where we really sit.”
Gladstone Goats begin their 2017 campaign tomorrow against Frenchville at TA Nutley Field in Rockhampton.
The match will kick off at 4pm and the club are asking fans to make the trek up north to support them.