Hornets should make a winning start
By MARK ROBINSON
GOONELLABAH, the defending champions of the Football Far North Coast Tursa pre-season Anzac Cup, should kick off their campaign for consecutive titles with a home win tomorrow against the Lennox Head B team at 4.30pm.
Their clash will complete a double-header at Weston Park, Goon-ellabah, with Maclean to take on Ballina at 2.30pm.
Along with Byron Bay, Lennox Head has entered two teams in the Anzac Cup with an eye to testing fringe players before the premiership proper starts in a month.
So, on paper, Goonellabah should have little trouble overcoming what is effectively the Sharks' reserve outfit, but new coach Brendan Logan remains wary.
"I've seen them play in a trial game and they're a well-drilled side so I'm expecting a relatively tough game, but we'll still look to attack and get forward in numbers at every opportunity," Logan said.
The Hornets will run on a full-strength side except for central defender John Eakin, who is serving a one-week suspension from last season.
With Clint Willoughby and Stephen Foster calling the shots from midfield and golden boot winner Ben Andrews combining with Peter O'Neill up front, the Hornets look to have too much class for any reserve grade side and should win easily.
Maclean and Ballina have produced some high-scoring encounters over the years and tomorrow could be another as both sides look to blow away the cobwebs and kick-start another season.
Maclean still has joint Coach of the Year Steve O'Sullivan at the helm of a youthful squad, while Ballina has only just resolved its coaching issues.
Dwayne Smith has been formally appointed to the role, assisted by Greg Jeffery and last year's coach Peter Lang.
Both sides have lost some key players, but if the Bobcats can recapture the form they showed towards the end of last season, they should come out on top.
Burringbar faces a tough initiation into the premier ranks tomorrow when the Bandits host one of the traditional powerhouses of the division in Richmond Rovers from 4.30pm.
The sides will be unknown to each other, with neither coach having seen the opposition play.
Rovers midfielders Ian McGregor and Aaron Heffernan have looked strong in trial games and with former golden boot winner Troy Matthews back, Rovers will be favoured, but the Bandits have a few danger players of their own that could upset Rovers' plans.
Striker Simon Hurcombe and attacking midfielder Joel Davidson scored a massive 60 goals between them in first division last season and will be out to do the same in premiers.
"We know it's going to be tough, but the boys are certainly looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead," Bandits coach Grant Wilkins said.
In the other game, Italo Stars host the Byron Bay B team from 4.30pm tomorrow and should start their year with a win.
While the Rams' young side will be full of enthusiasm and running, Stars' experienced squad should be able to absorb any pressure and capitalise in attack.