Rams? cohesion lifts FNC hopes

By MARK ROBINSON DESPITE limited preparation, Football FNC Allstars coach John Sowter is confident of a strong performance from the senior representative team when it takes on the Coffs Harbour-based North Coast tonight.

The opening game of the home-and-away series will be played at the Coffs Harbour International Stadium from 5pm.

While the Allstars have managed only one training run together, many of the key positions in the side are filled by players from the Byron Bay Rams, the defending premiers.

Their natural cohesion will assist Sowter in putting together a formation to counter the direct, physical game expected from North Coast.

"We'll have a strong spine of Byron players up the centre of the paddock with Kai Connell in goals, Aaron Richter-Steers in central defence, Shaun Packham in central midfield and Bruce Morhaus up front, and that will undoubtedly help," Sowter said.

Rick Austen is likely to partner Richter-Steers in defence, while Kevin Crofton will combine with Packham in the middle of the paddock and young Italo Stars bolter Brenton Mumford will probably start with Morhaus up front.

Jonathan Pierce will use his pace on the right flank, with Sowter making a late decision on whether Simon Hurcombe, Russell Dent or Peter Edwards will be on the left.

"We want to use pace, particularly on the flanks, to get forward in numbers and get behind their defence as often as possible," Sowter said.

The Englishman is director of coaching with FFNC and has had just one game in charge of the Allstars, a 4-3 loss to Gold Coast late last year.

But he has learnt a lot about his players since and is confident the seeds he sowed then will start to come to fruition at Coffs tonight.

The FNC Under-19 North Coast Suns are also expecting a tough, physical game from their North Coast opponents when they play the curtain-raiser at 3pm.

Despite the youth of the Suns, virtually every player has experience at Premier League level and it looks a promising line-up, with Tye McDonald in goals, Joel Rudgley and Matt Parrish working central midfield and Broden Hirst teamed with Tom Boland up front.

"Coffs are usually quick and don't mind getting physical so we know what to expect, but our players are used to dealing with that and I'm expecting the boys to go well," coach Howard Stubbs said.

Football FNC Allstars: Kai Connell, Jonathan Pierce, Aaron Richter Steers, Chris Cranmer, Bruce Morhaus, Shaun Packham (Byron Bay); Rick Austen, Wayne Mortimer, Brenton Mumford, Bill Latimer (Italo Stars); Kevin Crofton (Maclean); Russell Dent (Richmond Rovers); Peter Edwards, Troy Percival (Lennox Head); Simon Hurcombe (Burringbar); Alex Pratt (Bangalow).

North Coast Suns: Tye McDonald, Andrew Lundie, Mario Tinning (Lennox Head); Tom Boland, Mitchell Pickford, Nathan McCann, Matt Parrish (Thistles); Shane Summerfield, Murray Wade, Sam Ferronato (Workers); Joel Rudgley, Tom Inoue, Rob Cooper (Bangalow); Broden Hirst, Braden Burgess (Maclean); Josh Jackson (Ballina); Tom Ruhl, Joel Bradford (Byron Bay); Michael Kolovos, Ashton Wicks (Banora Point).

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