Coastal clubs look impressive
THE opening salvos of the Football Far North Coast 2007 soccer season will be fired tonight, with Byron Bay and Lennox Head hosting first-round games in the Tursa pre-season Anzac Cup.
Both clubs have recruited well in the off-season and on home turf will start as favourites, with Byron playing Lismore Workers from 7.15pm and Lennox Head taking on newly promoted Bangalow at 8pm.
Defending premiers Byron Bay have not lost at home for two seasons and should prove too strong for a Workers side limited to just 13 or 14 players.
With Liam MacPherson injured at training and several others unavailable, the Redmen will be stretched to the limit, leaving senior players such as Anthony Alvos, Zac Crowly and Jeremy Wraight in need of big games.
The Rams will use new Scottish striker Steve Kirkpatrick off the bench, with Todd Knaus also making his return in midfield.
A well-prepared Lennox Head and a new-look Bangalow should produce an engrossing encounter, with the Sharks running on new signings Luke Giudice in defence, Doug Norrie up front and the versatile Josh Campbell.
The Bluedogs will also have several new players on display, including speedy flankers Robert Cooper and Tom Inoue, prompting some quiet optimism from incoming coach Damon Bell.
"I saw Lennox play the other day and our speed could enable us to exploit them out wide," Bell said.
Fitness, youth and speed will be the Bluedogs' main weapons in attack, but they will also need to be wary in defence to contain the Sharks' experienced striking duo of golden boot winner Paul Kirkland and the canny Troy Percival.
The other four games in the opening round will be played on Sunday, with a double-header at Weston Park where defending Cup champions Goonellabah host the Lennox Head B team, following the clash of Maclean and Ballina.
Elsewhere, newly promoted Burringbar host Richmond Rovers while Italo Stars are at home to Byron Bay B.