Flanks could decide game

WHILE most games are determined by the battle for control in the centre of the paddock, it could be all about the flanks when Richmond Rovers host in-form Byron Bay in the Football FNC premier league tomorrow.

The two sides have built up a fierce rivalry in recent seasons, with a remarkable three-year run of draws finally ending with the Rams' emphatic 4-1 win in their Anzac Cup clash.

That result left Rovers coach Brian Bugden looking for a new game plan to try to counter the Rams' free-flowing attack, which has seen them surge into the Anzac Cup final.

"There's no doubt Byron will be a premiership threat this season. They control play well, pass well and they're strong in the middle with the likes of Tom Ruhl and Victor Pires," Bugden said.

"Their central defenders Ian Lenie and Shaun Packham are also tough to break down, so we'll look to bypass them by getting the ball wide and deep before crossing."

The approach will mean plenty of running for Rovers flankers Jake Heffernan and Matt Pratten as they take on the Rams' wide men Sam Robson and Tim Knight.

Rams coach Peter Ware also likes to build play down the flanks.

"Using the full width of the field is a big part of our game plan and Sam and Tim both have pace to burn," he said.

"While we've gone through the Anzac Cup undefeated I'm concerned by the Easter break.

"We haven't played in three weeks now after the washout against Stars, and Rovers are always a tough prospect on their home turf."

The match will kick off at 3pm.

Defending major premiers Goonellabah started their season with a 4-0 romp over Ballina last week but face a much tougher prospect tonight when they host Lismore Thistles at 8 o'clock.

The Hornets lost 2-1 to Thistles in the Anzac Cup and will start the game without two of their regular players, Cerys Hawkins and Shannon Maciejewski.

Without the continuity of the past two years, Hornets coach Mark Ambler described his side as "still a work in progress" and expects to take up to six weeks to settle on his final line-up.

Thistles are also missing some key players, with goalkeeper Nick Baker nursing a thumb injury, Jakeb Speers a bad knee injury and Joel Rudgley not yet ready for his debut for the Blues.

Two other games will be played tomorrow, with Alstonville expected to win its local derby with Ballina on home turf at Crawford Park, while Lismore Workers will also start hot favourites when they host Casino.

Both games kick off at 3pm.

On Sunday, Italo Stars will host Lennox Head from 2.30pm in the Sharks' first appearance back in the premier league for three years.

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