Rick?s fresh start
By STEVE SPINKS
PROP Rick Oxley will put a controversial few months behind him when he starts for Mullumbimby against Ballina at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League tomorrow.
It will be Oxley's first starting game after he came off the bench last week when the Giants were thrashed 58-12 by the Tweed Seagulls.
This week they take on some more Seagulls ... from a different flock.
Oxley has played only two games because he has been awaiting a clearance from the NSW Country Rugby League.
During the off-season the big front-rower signed to play with Byron Bay.
However, before the season started he decided he wanted to return to Mullum, his old club.
Byron Bay refused to release him, so Oxley refused to play for the Red Devils.
The stand-off created much consternation between the rival Brunswick Valley clubs.
This boiled over when they played each other at Byron Bay.
Both sides were unhappy at the behaviour of certain players from each team and there was plenty of extra niggle in the tackles.
Mullumbimby didn't stick around for a few drinks after the local derby, and Byron Bay officials were disappointed at the alleged snub.
The Red Devils relented a couple of weeks ago and released Oxley.
"It's all fine. It's all good and he played last week," Mullum coach Dave Latta said.
"He's been training with us non-stop and his attitude has been terrific.
"It took quite a long time to get cleared up, but thankfully it has been.
"It was a big ask for him in the first game (against Tweed), but he played quite well in the second half."
With the controversy now buried, Mullum can concentrate on trying to better Ballina, which has been beaten only once this season.
It has been made easier with the addition of five-eighth Chase Nelson, who missed last week due to injury.
In the Ballina camp, winger Clarence Kelly will make his run-on first grade debut after coming off the bench until now.
The Seagulls have big raps on Kelly, a Northern Rivers Under-18 representative, but he is playing out of position on the wing ? he normally starts at centre or five-eighth.
Last weekend's debutant Joe O'Connor keeps his spot on the other flank, while coach Chris Binge has further beefed up his pack with the introduction of Corey Windle and Matt Connor to the second row.
BALLINA: Fullback, Shaun Laurie; wingers, Joe O'Connor, Clarence Kelly; centres, Trent Gasnier, Ashley Moran; five-eighth, Justin Bolt; halfback, Troy Johnstone (c); props, Steve Kelly, Grant Erickson; hooker, Matt Temby; second-rowers, Matt Connor, Corey Windle; lock, Josh Mather. Interchange: Tyler Iverson. Coach: Chris Binge.
MULLUMBIMBY: Fullback, Simon Baines; wingers, Troy Smith, Joel Christie; centres, Paul Latta, Paul Mitchell; five-eighth, Chase Nelson; halfback, Adrian Browning; props, Adam McKenzie, Rick Oxley; hooker, Bernard Browning; second-rowers, Craig Abbott, Brett Archibald; lock, Mitch Morris. Interchange: Luke Hampson. Coach: Dave Latta.