City?s Ray of light
By STEVE SPINKS
WHEN Ray Taylor joined Lismore City rugby union training last season, club officials and players couldn't hide their smiles.
Here was a footballer with the atypical body type of a No8 with vast playing experience around the world.
Taylor proved to be the find of the season last year as Lismore City claimed their second Bangalow Hotel Far North Coast title in a row with a grand final win over Casino.
Taylor was also the Qantaslink Far North Coast Player of the Year.
Tomorrow the two teams will meet for the first time since that encounter, this time at Lismore Rugby Park, and again Taylor looms as the dangerman for the Bulls.
It's little wonder.
The 36-year-old has an impressive rugby resume.
He has played for West Harbour (Sydney first division) and Drummoyne (Sydney first division and second division), not to mention a two-year stint as a professional in Ireland in 1999 and 2000.
For the personal trainer, Ireland was a culture shock.
"I played with the Wanderers club in Dublin," Taylor said.
"Our home ground was Landsdowne Road ... we played there every second week.
"The football they played was very different from Australia because of the conditions.
"You run through the ground, rather than on top of it, because it is so heavy."
The rigours of full-time professionalism also surprised him.
"The week I arrived we played three games in seven days," Taylor said.
"They had their main competition, a pre-competition season and a mid-week knockout.
"Not to mention the training."
He played regularly against many established Irish internationals including Irish captain and outside centre Brian O'Driscoll.
At the end of his stint in Ireland Taylor returned to Sydney before he and his young family headed north to join Dave Hoffman at Dave's Health and Lifestyle in Goonellabah.
Taylor considered retiring at the end of last season, but decided to turn out for Far North Coast in the NSW Country Championships.
He was selected in the Cockatoos squad of 30 for the Australian Rugby Shield this season and has been named as a shadow reserve for the final squad of 24 despite FNC bombing out in both representative games.
Lismore coach Peter Tozer believes Taylor has had an immense influence since his arrival.
"He's lifted our blokes a couple of steps," Tozer said.
"He leads by example and has the right answers when things aren't going too well on the paddock."
Casino coach Mick Russell agrees, but he's a little less happy about it.
"He's a bloody menace, especially at line-out time," Russell quipped.
"But our line-out is a little different this year so we're hoping we can contain him."
LISMORE CITY (likely): 1 S Edmonds, 2 J McKay, 3 M Collins, 4 G Tulk, 5 A McGrath, 6 G Little, 7J Oliveri, 8 R Taylor, 9 TBA, 10 D O'Brien, 11 D Bebb, 12 M Mowle, 13 S Hughes, 14 S Paisley, 15J Lea. Coach: Peter Tozer.
CASINO: 1 P Batson, 2 J Mohammed, 3 T Llewellyn, 4 A Bowen, 5 H Johnston, 6 D Schneider, 7 J Cameron, 8 C Conte, 9 L Serone, 10 N Quirk, 11 C Lavelle, 12 C Tahatu, 13 D Corrigan, 14 S Manwaring, 15 T Gilmour. Coach: Mick Russell.
Rep players missing
SOUTHERN Cross University and Ballina have lost key players to representative duty for their clash at Maurie Ryan Oval, Lismore, today.
Uni has lost flanker Henry Vanderglas and Ballina will be without fullback Adam Gordon.
Both are in the NSW Country Under-20 team.
Alex Smith replaces Vanderglas, while Len Moran returns to the Ballina starting team.
Moran was set to start three weeks ago, but his wife went into labour the morning of the match and gave birth to a daughter.
SCU: 1 D Richards, 2 A Condon, 3 D Hayter, 4 B Brooke, 5 J Wallace, 6 A Smith, 7 B Matters, 8 D Doyle, 9 M Anderson, 10 D Thom, 11 E Douglas, 12 C Magner, 13 B White, 14 J Juszczak, 15 P McMahon. Coach: Matt Want.
BALLINA: 1 B Horan, 2 C Davy, 3 J Doctor, 4 P Davies, 5 M Koellner/P Woods, 6 D Lickiss, 7 L Preston, 8 D Baggaley, 9 T Nichol, 10 L Sullivan, 11 K Scott, 12 B Milner, 13 L Moran, 14 Andrew Gordon, 14 Adam Gaiter. Coach: Karl Lupton.
YAMBA will blood all three of their university scholarship holders when second-rower Dan Cowling starts against Wollongbar at Lyle Park, Alstonville.
Cowling, No8 Mitch McLennan and halfback Ben Ralston are on scholarship with the Yamba club, which helps its players attend university.
The second-rower has been unavailable because he's been busy rowing surf boats.
"He's six foot four (1.95 metres) and 110kg," Yamba coach Richard Almond said.
YAMBA: 1 A Edwards, 2 P Davis, 3 B Rich, 4 S Riley, 5 D Cowling, 6 L Turner, 7 P Hope, 8 M McLennan, 9 B Ralston, 10 R Imeson, 11 T Allard, 12 S Wiblen, 13 A Ford, 14 M Lee, 15 B Hunt. Coach: Richard Almond.