Joey is Mr Fixit
By STEVE SPINKS
FAR NORTH COAST will rely on the broad shoulders of hooker Joey Mohammed if they are any chance of overcoming Western Plains in the first round of the NSW Country Rugby Union Championships at the Byron Bay Recreational Fields today.
Western Plains have been the powerhouse of the second tier of the Country tournament called the Richardson Shield since the tournament was split into two divisions in 2004.
The Plainsmen are the defending champions and have a number of NSW Country representatives.
Centre Richie Steele and flanker Tim O'Brien have been leading lights for the Cockatoos in their representative fixtures but O'Brien will not make the trip due to work commitments. It's a big plus for FNC, as O'Brien is a former Sydney first grader with Manly and Gordon as well as an Australian Sevens representative.
With O'Brien running rampant at the breakdown, the Western Plains forward pack has built a formidable reputation.
It's a reputation FNC coach Karl Lupton is wary of.
"We played them last year in Cobar and they have a number of very handy players," he said.
"They've got a big forward pack and ours is a little undersized."
It's why Mohammed's scrum and lineout work will be vitally important if the Dolphins are to knock off the tournament favourites.
Mohammed, a Casino Bulls veteran, will pack down with clubmate Paul Batson and Ballina prop Brent Horan in the frontrow.
This season will mark about the 10th year that Mohammed has represented FNC.
"I'd say he's easily played for 10 years," Lupton said.
"I'd suggest the Zone should give him an award for service.
"He's not a fashionable player, but he gives everything. Last year he strained his knee ligaments warming up in Cobar and still played ... that's the type of guy he is.
"He gives 100 per cent."
Mohammed is also mobile around the paddock for such a big man and often covers dangerous situations for his team.
"He has a little bit more vision than a lot of other guys," Lupton said.
"He has a bit of urgency and tries to cover up trouble."
FNC has gone into the match with an untried centre combination of SCU's Brendan Brooke, normally a secondrower, and Harry Witt, a rugby league hooker.
However, Western Plains have named David Silversides at outside centre to partner Steele.
Silversides had a season with Casino as a flanker in 2005.
The Macadamia Cup between the Village Competition XV and the President's XV will kick-off at 4pm as the curtain-raiser.
FAR NORTH COAST
1 Brent Horan (Ballina), 2 Joe Mohammed (Casino), 3 Paul Batson (Casino), 4 Greg Holland (Bangalow), 5 Brett McLennan (Ballina), 6 Shaun Makings (Casino), 7 Liam Preston (Ballina), 8 Robert Teoka (Evans), 9 Scott Lancaster (Lismore), 10 Luke Watling (Ballina), 11 Tristan Allard (Yamba), 12 Brendan Brooke (SCU), 13 Harry Witt (Lennox), 14 James Wivell (SCU), 15 Ben Damen (Wollongbar). Reserves: 16 Simon Gava (Lismore), 17 Nathan Smith (Evans), 18 Danny Lickiss (Lennox), 19 Paul Woods (Ballina), 20 Beau Milner (Lennox), 21 Trent Gasnier (Lennox), 22 Ben Leon (Ballina). Coach: Karl Lupton.