Star loses key players

TWO potential premiership contenders will get an early gauge on their longer term prospects in Football FNC premier league soccer when Italo Stars host Goonellabah today at 5pm.

Stars will unveil a new-look side under new coach Rick Austen but they face a big first-up challenge to contain an in-form Hornets outfit that has scored13 goals in its past two outings.

Missing from Stars’ squad from last year are joint Golden Boot winner Max Latimer, strikers Wayne Mortimer and Brenton Mumford, and defenders Craig Wiblen and Matt Pratten.

“It’s going to be hard for us to blend in five new players, but the boys have been training well and this will give us a good chance to see where we’re at,” Austen said.

Stars will start underdogs against a full-strength Hornets, whose coach Mark Ambler has the side in great early form.

Byron Bay and Ballina contested a toss of the coin for an Anzac Cup semi-final berth with Byron winning, leaving Ballina with a point to prove when they square off at the Bay from 3pm today.

Both sides will be looking to their midfield to give them the edge, with the Rams using pacy trio Tom Ruhl, Yantra Whitling and Shannon Maciejewski.

Ballina will use a four-man midfield, with former Lennox Head player Andrew Lundie combining with Cerys Hawkins in the middle and Dylan Monnox and Jake O’Grady on the flanks.

The Seasiders are missing defenders Dane and Liam Seymour but have Peter Edwards and Todd Jones coming in to fill their shoes, while the Rams are at full strength and will field new Irish signing Greg McDonnell in a defensive midfield role.

In the other game, Bangalow travel to Lismore to take on a full-strength Workers at 5pm.

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