FNC junior Ben Johnston playing for the Canberra Vikings in the National Rugby Championship.
FNC junior Ben Johnston playing for the Canberra Vikings in the National Rugby Championship. Loryn Ettridge

Flying the flag for FNC rugby

TWO Far North Coast rugby union products will be involved in the Australian sevens team and National Rugby Championship grand final this weekend.

Lennox Head premiership-winning flanker Sam Croke has been selected in the Australian team for the Oceania Sevens in Fiji.

Meanwhile, Wollongbar-Alstonville junior Ben Johnston (pictured at left) will play in the National Rugby Championship grand final with the Canberra Vikings against Queensland Country.

Johnston, 31, is one of the best fullbacks to come out of the FNC and has been playing on the wing in a strong Vikings team.

Croke now plays club rugby with Randwick in Sydney and will represent the Australian sevens team for a second time.

A strong showing from Croke would put him in the selection frame for the top tier HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai on December 2.

Playing in the HSBC World Series would see him follow in the footsteps of Kyogle's Shannon Walker and Wollongbar-Alstonville junior Alex Gibbon.

Australian coach Andy Friend has opted to give an opportunity to some of the younger players with eight uncapped in the squad.

"Such is the global nature of Rugby Sevens we have had commitments in America with the Silicon Valley Sevens and the Oceania Sevens in Suva, Fiji,” Friend said.

"With eight guys to get their first cap for Australia, it gives our squad another opportunity to demonstrate the inroads we have been making across our entire squad following on from our success at the Central Coast Sevens.

"It is a massive year for our game and these guys know that we are still looking to secure some tier one contracts to enhance our squad.”

Assistant coach Jarred Hodges will take the team to Fiji with games against the Solomon Islands and Tonga.

"There is some really exciting talent in this group and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do on the park this weekend, in what will be a very challenging competition,” Hodges said.

"Tonga and the Solomon Islands will offer very different styles of rugby and across the other pools we know that Fiji at home will be very tough as well as New Zealand.”

The Oceania tournament starts on Friday while the NRC grand final will be televised on Foxtel on Saturday night.



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