The Casino Cougars' Damien Benn takes the ball up during an NRRRL game. Benn looks likely to be out for the season with a collapsed disc in his lower back.
The Casino Cougars' Damien Benn takes the ball up during an NRRRL game. Benn looks likely to be out for the season with a collapsed disc in his lower back. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Cougars' big blow in NRRRL

A BACK injury looks certain to keep Casino Cougars lock Damien Benn out for the rest of the season in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.

It is a cruel blow for the captain, who has been one of the best players for the Cougars and in the competition over the past two seasons.

He has had problems with his back in the past. It restricted him to four games in 2014 and he has played only two this season

Benn played 30 games over the previous two seasons in a resurgent team that has become a genuine premiership threat.

The Cougars can keep that momentum going and will look for their seventh win of the season when they take on last-placed Byron Bay at Byron Bay today.

"I have a collapsed disc in my lower back and it's looking like a long-term injury, unfortunately,” Benn said.

"I've had this happen before and they have to go in and shave part of it (the disc) off.

"I'm shattered, to be honest, and this is probably one of the best chances we've had with this team.

"I'm still really happy for the boys and I'm at every game and training session.”

Five-eighth Roy Bell has taken on the captaincy and is having one of his best seasons at the club in recent years.

The Cougars have been bolstered by the likes of hooker Hayden Pratt and fullback Vinnie Roberts, who have come over from Kyogle.

Lock Tim Ring has also been a handy addition after he captain-coached Tullibigeal-Lakes United to a premiership last year in the Group 20 competition in the Central West of NSW.

"He (Ring) is one of the best defenders in the competition and it's a bonus for us that he ended up at Casino because his wife got a job here,” Benn said.

"Hayden hadn't played for a few years but he has definitely been one of our best over the past month.

"This is probably the best I've seen Roy play in a few years, too; he's a leader and when he's on we all play well.

"There is depth in the whole club this season and it is one of the best first-grade teams I can remember.”

Kick-off is 3pm.

In other games:

Kyogle takes on Murwillumbah at New Park, Kyogle, from 5pm today.

Tweed Coast plays Mullumbimby at Les Burger Field, Cabraita, from 3pm today.

Competition leaders Marist Brothers host the Lower Clarence Magpies at Crozier Field, Lismore, tomorrow.

Evans Head face Cudgen at Stan Payne Oval, Evans Head, tomorrow.

Ballina has the bye.



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