By DAVID KRAUSE
TWO former local players, Balin Cupples and Martin Griese, will represent the Queensland Residents side against NSW Residents in the State of Origin curtain-raiser next Wednesday at Suncorp Stadium.
Cupples is a former Ballina junior, who had a stint with Balmain, while Griese played two season with the now defunct Lismore Workers side in the early 2000s.
Both guys play Queensland Cup for the very strong Burleigh Bears side.
Burleigh were last year's premiers in the Queensland Cup and are currently leading this year's competition.
Growing up as young footy players, representing Queensland would have been the last thing they imagined, but the best of luck to the two guys and hopefully they can use this Origin pipe-opener to relaunch their careers in the big time.
Maybe even the new Gold Cosat side!
Another local player going well in the Queensland Cup is former Marist Brothers second-rower Shannon Cameron.
After having a few great seasons with Brothers, Cameron made the trip up to Ipswich to try his luck and the trip has proved very fruitful.
He has been a regular in the Trevor Gillmeister-coached side this year and knowing how hard he works on his game, the best is yet to come.
Day of underdog
ROUND 12 of the NRRRL competition saw two of the high-flying teams from the north brought back to earth with a thud.
The Maclean Showground proved a graveyard for the previously unbeaten Murwillumbah, who lost 22-20 to a very committed Lower Clarence.
Casino took a leaf out of Bangladesh's book by causing one of the biggest upsets seen in local football in the past 20 years, beating Cudgen 38-24. Going into the match Cudgen were unbackable favourites, and rightly so.
The Cudgen side on paper are the most experienced side in the league and one of the teams to beat, but this meant nothing to a young Casino side (except Dean Petty, he's older than me) that has improved as the season has progressed.
This side will be better in the next few years when the young players get more experience, and they will, but the one thing they have at the moment is no fear, no fear of reputations.
TWEED Seagulls are also the teams to beat in the Under-18s and Reserve Grade, leading in both grades.
The Tweed Reserve grade side is undefeated and is in the enviable position of having first-graders drop back to them when players from the Tweed Queensland Cup side are dropped back to their NRRRL team.
Mullum, Cudgen and Ballina look like the sides who can put pressure on the Tweed side, but if there is such a thing as a certainty in this year's comp., then the Tweed Seagulls Reserve Grade side is it.
The Under-18s is a lot closer. At the moment, Tweed and Murwillumbah are sitting on top of the ladder but Lower, Kyogle and Ballina are breathing down their necks.
Ballina is a club renowned for strong Under-18s and after narrowly losing to Kyogle in last year's decider they will be keen to get back on top.
However, the one thing that may hinder this is first grade coach Chris Binge's policy of using Under-18s in first grade.
It's a policy I support. The saying goes: 'if you're good enough, you're old enough'.
THE best thing about coaching junior league is the chance to put something back into the game.
It happens in every club and the kids are the ones who benefit.
One ex-player doing just that is former Cronulla Sharks prop Danny Lee.
During the 1990s, he was one of the premier props in the game, doing battle with the likes of Roach, Gillespie and Lazarus every week.
After a few successful seasons coaching Marist Brothers reserve grade, 'Ox' is now coaching one of the Under-7 teams, in which his son Issac plays.
The sight of Danny, who stands almost two metres (6ft 5in, in old-speak) directing these seven-year-old kids is one to behold.
It's great to see someone who reached the very top of our game coaching these boys, and the fact that he has three young boys of his own means he will be coaching for a long time yet.
Don't forget this Saturday's carnival ? for Under 7-12s ? at Ballina.