Ballina Seagulls set to break 20-year Premiership drought
MOST first grade coaches have backed Ballina to break a 20-year premiership drought in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final on Sunday.
The Seagulls last won it in 1993 and will host Murwillumbah Mustangs at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.
Hooker Andrew Battese and halfback Nikko Roberts are the players who the coaches believe will lead the way for Ballina.
"A lot of what Ballina do well comes off the back of Battese," Northern United coach Ash Moran said.
"The forwards respond well to him and they have some great attacking weapons out wide.
"I think two players to watch out for at the crucial times will be Brian and Brett Kelly."
Johnstone was part of the Mullumbimby team who beat the Seagulls the last time Ballina hosted the grand final in 2007.
"Ballina has really stepped up in the last month and they have a good young forward pack," he said.
"I think if they're ever going to win it, this is the year.
Turner added: "Ballina were head and shoulders above Grafton in the semi-final".
"Across the park they are the best side in the competition and they'll win it on current form."
The Seagulls beat Grafton 26-10 in the qualifying semi-final at Ballina last month.
They went on to beat Murwillumbah in convincing fashion 36-6 in the major semi-final at Stan Sercombe Oval, Murwillumbah.
Ballina has enjoyed a week off while Murwillumbah were made to work for a 17-10 win against Grafton Ghosts in the preliminary final at the weekend.
The Mustangs welcome back lock Ali Brown from a two-match suspension.
Brown was sent off for striking the last time he played at Ballina and again the following week after a head-high tackle on a Marist Brothers player.
Grafton captain-coach Ryan Farrell isn't prepared to write-off the minor premiers yet.
Ghosts went down by one point against the Mustangs in the 2012 grand final.
"Murwillumbah are a good side and Ali Brown coming back makes a big difference," Farrell said.
"A lot of people are talking about it being a whitewash but it will be a lot closer than what they think. Ballina will be confident but I don't think there'll be many points in it."
Rams coach Adam Mayes also made mention of Brown's return but backed Ballina on home ground advantage.
Entry is $12. Under-18s kick off at 11am and First grade at 2.45pm.