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Crunch time in FNC rugby

PIONEERS POWERHOUSE: Wollongbar hooker Bill Johnston on his way to scoring one of two tries in the FNC rugby major semi-final.
PIONEERS POWERHOUSE: Wollongbar hooker Bill Johnston on his way to scoring one of two tries in the FNC rugby major semi-final. Vicki Kerry

Northern Star sports editor Mitchell Craig names some key players and predicts the winner of the Far North Coast Rugby Union grand final

Ballina v Wollongbar- Alstonville at Crozier Field, Lismore (Saturday)

Grant Knight, Jake Smith, Ballina

Knight produced a strong showing in the second half of the preliminary final and will have to be at his best for the full 80 minutes here.

It his first time on the the big stage but he his more than capable of a big performance after a breakthrough season at representative level with NSW Country.

Smith will lead the way in the forwards and has the ability to dominate at the breakdown if he gets support from the players around him.

Sam Kerry, Bill Johnston, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Johnston has enjoyed a strong second half of the season and is not only scoring tries but setting up opportunities for the players around him.

Kerry has been able to maintain his form which has made one of the best players in the competition for the past three seasons.

If these two have plenty of touches and get Ballina on the back foot it could deliver a fourth straight premiership to the Pioneers.

Mitch's tip, Ballina by 1

Ballina is on the cusp of breaking a 10-year premiership drought which is a long time for a club like the Seahorses.

There is a lot to like about this team with front-rower Sam Pearce one of the best props in the competition at just 18-years-old and the evolution of flanker Luke Kliese after only three seasons in the game.

If you want to back an underdog get the blue and black streamers out and jump on the Ballina bandwagon.