IAN DONNELLY
IAN DONNELLY

Local blood missing in first round

By ADAM HICKS

AS cricket haters rejoice at the return of the National Rugby League tonight, Northern Rivers' football fans find themselves without any locals to support in the top grade.

For the first time in a long time, there will be no players with a local background playing in first grade in the first round of the NRL.

Matt King has left the Melbourne Storm and is running around on frost-bitten English fields.

Manly's motivational speaker Ben Kennedy is busy running his fruit shop in Brisbane and will not be making a comeback.

The Roosters' James Aubusson, formerly of Ballina, remains sidelined while recovering from off-season groin surgery.

Younger brother Mitch Aubusson was named in the Roosters' 20-man squad but missed out on final selection in the team set to take on the Rabbithos tonight.

And former Marist Brothers player Ian Donnelly was not named in the Gold Coast Titans' top team.

However, three local boys, Kyogle's Shannon Walker and Will Matthews and Mullumbimby's Cody Nelson, were named in the Titans' Under-20s squad.

The inaugural National Youth Competition kicks off during the first round.

If sentimentality is a factor in your footy tipping strategy, we also have claims to some of the coaches.

Newcastle's Brian Smith is a proud product of Casino.

North Queensland's Graham Murray is a former coach of Lismore Workers.

And the Penrith Panthers' Mathew Elliott is a former student at Southern Cross University.



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