Ben Johnston will play for his old club Wollongbar at the Byron Sevens.
Ben Johnston will play for his old club Wollongbar at the Byron Sevens.

Pioneers bolster sevens team

By ADAM HICKS

CANBERRA Vikings flyer Ben Johnston will play for the Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers in the Byron Sevens tournament this weekend.

Johntson moved to Canberra three years ago to futher his career after playing most of his junior football with the Pioneers.

He recovered from snapping his ankle early this season to start for the Vikings against Melbourne in the final round of the Australian Rugby Championship.

He said the Byron Sevens was a chance to play with old mates and help support the Breast Cancer Foundation by donning the team's pink jersy.

"We're getting together for the awareness of breast cancer and to play with our mates," he said.

The club will be selling ribbons during the tournament to raise money for the charity.

Johnston is joined by other ring-ins, Bill Johnston who plays with Easts in Sydney, and Scott Higgenbottom, a robust No 8 who played the season with the Ballymore Tornadoes and was named the Queensland Reds Academy Player of 2007.

Western Sydney Rams flanker Ben Coridas was also lined up to play for the Pioneers but will miss the tournament after undergoing a knee reconstruction late in the season.

Coridas and Bill Johnston are both former Wollongbar players.

This weekend is the first time Ben Johnston has played on the same team as his 17-year-old brother Toby, who will also play for the Pioneers.

The Pioneers go into the tournament as dark horses with a young team full of potential but lacking in sevens experience.

However, in the past year the Pioneers won their group round of the Darwin Sevens and finished second overall at the Cresent Head Sevens.

Johnston said the team was approaching the tournament seriously but was also keen to have fun.

"I'd say there's going to be a few beers," he said. "It depends how we go on the Saturday. If we win all our games, and that puts us in contention to win, then we will take it easy on Saturday night."

Wollongbar are in a tough pool that includes New Zealand team Hautapu, the University of NSW and the Hinterland Celtics.

The Byron Sevens starts at 9am on Saturday with the finals on Sunday afternoon.



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