ALBURY Thunder coach Josh Cale is confident of keeping his playing list together for a tilt at a third-straight premiership.
Cale, who will take on a non-playing role, yesterday said stalwart Steve Meredith and reserve grade coach Tommy Gemmell were the only confirmed losses to retirement.
In a huge coup, front-rower Mitch Davis will remain at Greenfield Park after his girlfriend recently found a job in the region.
“Our focus is on keeping everyone together and that looks likely to happen,” Cale said.
“Steve and Tommy they will be retiring after fantastic careers, but otherwise the boys have committed.
“It’s a really young side and we’re more than happy with the players we have on board.”
Albury can next season match Kangaroos record of three-straight flags that the Wagga-based club achieved in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
But Cale expects the competition to be fierce.
“It’s will only get harder,” he said.
“I thought the comp was stronger this year than 2012 and it will probably go up another level next season.
“We will need to get better again.
“Clubs are already out there recruiting hard and it will definitely be tough.”
Southcity is shaping as the team most likely to challenge Albury after signing former Manly player Nick Skinner and coach Daniel Fitzhenry is believed to have several other big-name recruits on his radar.
The Bulls bombed out of the finals in disastrous fashion after beating Thunder in round 17 and won’t be helped by the departure of winger Shaun Ainscough who has returned to England.
Gundagai has also been hard hit by losses since losing the grand final with Peter Magnone and Matt Rose, James Smart and Tyron Gorman moving on.