Forward now in ?enemy? colours
By Steve Spinks
Far North Coast rugby union second-rower Dave Hales is playing for the enemy.
Hales, who represented NSW Country last season, will be making his first appearance for the FNC Dolphins today when they play Central North in the first round of the NSW Country Championship at Quays Res-erve, Ballina, tonight.
The 36-year-old, who moved to Grafton late last year, has been a stalwart for Mid North Coast teams over the years and admits it will be strange playing for the once hated Far North Coast.
"I know a fair few of the blokes from 2003 when Mid North Coast and Far North Coast sent a combined team to Country Week at Forbes," Hales told The Northern Star.
"I don't know if there will be too much difference playing for Far North Coast against Central North, but it will be a different story when we play Mid North Coast."
One thing is for certain, Hales will be definitely giving his all for his new zone tonight.
"We're really keen to nail Central North because whoever beats them will probably play in the Northern Provincial final," Hales said.
"That's going to be a curtain-raiser to a Super 12 match in Sydney."
Hales turned out for NSW Country last year as a tight-head prop, but he will play second-row for the Dolphins tonight.
"I'll probably end up in the front row at some stage," he said.
"But there's a shortage of second-rowers in the zone at the moment and I've played second-row before."
The 1.88m and 113kg forward started playing rugby only as a 19-year-old when he joined the Army.
"My Dad founded the Sawtell Rugby League club in 1969, so he was a bit miffed when I started playing rah rah," Hales chuckled.
The business manager for Mid City Ford at Grafton, Hales is also keen to make his mark in club rugby for the Redmen.
Grafton have struggled for the past few seasons, but Hales is hoping he can bring a bit of winning culture to the club considering his previous team, Coffs Harbour, has won the past two MNC competitions and past two Arthur Tonkin Shields, which is contested between MNC and New England first-grade sides.
Far North Coast coach Gervase Bertus has named a strong line-up against a relatively unknown Central North team that has lost a number of past star performers.
It could be the Dolphins' best chance for an upset win over the 2004 Country Championship runners-up.
Action this afternoon starts at 4.30pm with FNC Under-20s taking on Central North. The main game is scheduled for 6pm.
Afterwards the North Coast Academy of Sport will take on Northern Inland Academy of Sport from 7.30pm.
Canteen and bar facilities will be available.