Far North Coast women are on the ball

THE 2005 Southern Cross Credit Union Women's Premier League soccer premiership starts tonight.

Here's a look at how the teams shape up:

Richmond Rovers: The loss of Katie Field to Italo Stars will leave a hole for the 2004 pointscore champions, but it provides an opportunity for 2004 Soccer FNC Junior Player of the Year Renee McIntosh to step forward. Defensively, the loss of veteran Val Dowse will leave Rovers vulnerable. They will look to goalkeeper Leah Pagura for leadership and organisation.

Byron Bay: Upstarts in 2004, already they have the alarm bells ringing in the Rovers and Workers camps, winning through to the final of the Callan McMillan Shield. New coach John Garrett is looking for consistency and teamwork. Rachel Cooper, Chloe Dunsmore and Caitlin Downes will be the key to Byron's defence, while the attacking edge will come from newcomer Meira Dinsmore and 2004 Golden Boot Rose Argent. New signings in Amber Dawson, Isabella Braly and Michelle Slattery add to their depth.

Lismore Workers: Forced to work hard last year, Workers have lost Anita Sheridan, defender Toni Johnston and Mia Bellew. But performances in the pre-season Callan McMillan Shield have shown the Red Women will continue to challenge for top spot. Coach Dave Condon believes the passion is still there, but he may have to work even harder for success.

Ballina: Debutantes last year, the Seahorses performed creditably in the top flight, finishing fourth. Coach Lisa Kelly has stepped down to concentrate on playing and her performances will be critical. New coach Peter Smith is realistic about the side's chances but is looking to at least make the top five. The key to achieving that will be striker Emma Turner and new recruit Sam Smith.

Goonellabah: The Hornets have caused a mini revolution during the off-season, forming a team of real quality primarily by recruiting most of the SCU team that finished fifth. Northern Star Player of the Year Felicity Kerslake will be the focus. New talent and midfield partner Amanda Brett may benefit if Kerslake is heavily marked. Coach Peter O'Neill knows consistency will be the girls' biggest challenge.

Lennox Head: Moving up into the Premier League was supposed to push the Sharks forward but this year looks like a season of rebuilding. The loss of goalkeeper Michelle Slattery will be felt, with replacement Chelsea Coleman being thrown in the deep end. Striker Alison Parr is not returning, but coach Dave Greiner believes youngsters Bianca Linton, Kylie Fenech and Maddie Ryan can step up.

Italo Stars: Joining Goonellabah and Casino as novices in the Premier League, Stars are an unknown quantity. The recruitment of former Rovers striker Katie Field will give them an attacking edge in tandem with the experience of Tina Percival, Jenna Osbourne and Lisa Donadel. They could cause the odd upset but a long, hard year is still on the cards. The odd guest appearance from talented youngster Gypsy Hechtl could add some spark.

Casino: This young fresh team has done well in the Callan McMillan Shield pre-season. The mix of 2004 second division women and Grade 16 girls should improve under coach Stewart Coughran through the season. The future rests with talented youngsters Sam Small and Amy Short, who will combine with the experience of Tamarra Casson and new signing Katrina Mullard.

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