Crunch time in Tursa Anzac Cup
FOOTBALL Far North Coast's Tursa Anzac Cup final is within striking distance for four of the region's top clubs, with a semi-final this weekend and the other after Easter.
Form sides Byron Bay and Lismore Thistles square off in Sunday's semi-final, on neutral turf at Nielson Park, East Lismore.
The second semi-final between Lismore Workers and Alstonville has been rescheduled due to both sides' involvement in the Northern NSW Cup, to be played on Wednesday, April 4, at Weston Park from 7pm.
Byron Rams and Thistles met in the semis last year, with Thistles scraping home in a penalty shoot-out, despite playing most of the game with only 10 men.
Thistles will need the same sort of fighting spirit to overcome a Rams outfit that has shown good early form, winning all three pool games and racking up 11 goals in the process.
With coach Peter Ware back after a few years away from the game, there is a sense the Rams can go all the way to the title they last claimed in 2007, when Ware was also at the helm.
But he is well aware of the threat posed by the Blues' dangerous, attack-minded squad.
"They are a quality side that has been together as a group for several years now, so they know each other well and have developed good combinations," Ware said.
"They've also made some good signings to boost their depth and I think they will be serious premiership contenders this year, so this is an important early test for us," he said.
Rams captain and striker Tom Ruhl will lead from the front and will be bubbling with confidence after a hat-trick last week against Lennox Head.
Other key players include central defenders Ian Lenie and Shaun Packham, central midfielders Aaron Richter Steers and new signing Victor Pires, along with former 'keeper Layton Barton, who has impressed with his strength in midfield since making the switch.
Blues coach Paul Parmenter will run on the same side that trounced Ballina 5-0 last week and will look for more of the same.
"We'll stick to our game plan of getting the ball forward quickly or into the corners to find space, but need to be more composed in front of goals - we blew quite a few good chances last week," he said.
The game kicks off at 4.30pm.