Front-row strength of the Seahorses
BALLINA is back to full strength after front-rower Sam Pearce returned from a knee injury earlier than expected in Far North Coast rugby union.
The Seahorses now have a three-man front-row rotation with Isaac Pratten and Callam Turner set to take on Lennox Head in the final round at Quays Reserve, Ballina, today.
Ballina is one of the only clubs with the luxury of having a fresh front-rower on the bench ahead of the semi-finals.
"We're fortunate enough to have depth in the front row and we rotate them around to get the best outcome we can over the 80 minutes,” Ballina coach Chris Hickey said.
"Sam was out for a period of time but he's starting to warm up to it again with a bit of match fitness under his belt.
"He's fully fit now and back to the way he was playing at the start of the season.
"Not only do they scrum well but they're solid ball-runners and they've all played plenty of first grade.
"They're mobile for their size and we feel like we've found the right balance in the forward pack from one to eight.”
The Seahorses have had plenty of injuries with players coming in and out of the forward pack.
However, the backline has been reasonably settled all season and will need to be at their best against the potent attack of the Trojans.
"We're a young backline and it's important that they've had that time together to work on combinations,” Hickey said.
"Going into finals you want a tough hit-out and a good local derby will help us with our preparation.”
The day is also a reunion for five Ballina premiership-winning sides with a drought appeal fundraiser.
There will be a hay bale auction afer the game at 6pm to help support New South Wales farmers.
"Rugby is a big part of some of those communities struggling and we want to show our support,” Hickey said.
"I'm sure between the two clubs we'll be able to raise some much-needed funds.”
Kick-off is 3.15pm.
In other games today, minor premiers Wollongbar-Alstonville have rested six players against Bangalow at Schultz Oval, Bangalow.
Casuarina will tackle Southern Cross University at home and Casino takes on Lismore City at Albert Park, Casino.
Ballina: 1 Sam Pearce, 2 Brett Johnston, 3 Isaac Pratten, 4 Ryan Hamilton, 5 Ryan O'Connor, 6 Chris Wilkinson, 7 Andrew Burke (c), 8 Brad Brown, 9 Nick Watson, 10 Beau Clarke, 11 Terry Ferguson, 12 Anthony Lolohea, 13 Joel Staude, 14 Joel Noble, 15 Tom Watson. Coach: Chris Hickey.
Lennox Head: 1 Mathew Liddle, 2 Connor Blair, 3 Curtis Miles, 4 Mackenzie Winchester, 5 Jono Huddy, 6 Luke Mounic, 7 Hayden Blair, 8 Daniel Alley, 9 Abe Goldsmith, 10 Hugo Marks, 11 Zac Beecher, 12 Blake Miles, 13 Brad Lees (c), 14 Martin McNamara, 15 Paul Crozier. Coach: Jason McCombie.
Referee: Matthew Clayton.
Bangalow: 1 Sam Rawsthorne, 2 Robbie Collinson, 3 Angus Dickson, 4 Jock Craigie, 5 John Turagabeci, 6 Isaac Hill, 7 Omar Sella, 8 Dan Rollinson (c), 9 James Burns, 10 Ryan Duffy, 11 Benson Lockyer, 12 Tom Slater, 13 Vincent Young, 14 Johnathan Bainbridge, 15 Chris Bleakley. Coach: Marty Clapp.
Wollongbar-Alstonville: 1 Matt Wright, 2 Bill Johnston, 3 Jaiden Reginato, 4 Matt Scott, 5 Zak Galbraith, 6 Callum Mould, 7 Hamish Mould, 8 Matt Johnson, 9 Jaiden McDonald, 10 Ben Damen (c), 11 Daniel Damen, 12 George Toomey, 13 Matt Nean, 14 James Vidler, 15 Sam Kerry. Coach: Ern Sandral.
Referee: Dylan Harris.
Casuarina Beach: 1 Adam Parlby, 2 Daniel Heritage (c), 3 Robert Beacroft, 4 Arthur Blin, 5 Neil Hazelman, 6 Geoff Wallace, 7 James McMahon, 8 Timoci Rokosuka, 9 Matt Burgess, 10 Vitori Buatava, 11 Jaden Wakefield, 12 Webb Lillis, 13 Graham Dodge, 14 Jordan Reed, 15 Nathan Croft. Coach: Adam Leach.
Southern Cross University: 1 Pat Kelly, 2 Isaac Penfold, 3 Mitch Bird, 4 Riley Spencer, 5 Sam Condon, 6 Pat Wilton, 7 Kirk Taylor Brown, 8 Matt Murray, 9 Matt Anderson (c), 10 Will Hawkins, 11 Jake Henry, 12 Matt McMullen, 13 Kaya Fraser-Wardle,14 Kurt Creighton, 15 Mick McMullen. Coach: Josh Condon.
Referee: Graham Cook.
Casino: 1 Blake Birmingham, 2 Jake Clark, 3 Scott Kenny, 4 Nathan Davy, 5 Callum McLennan, 6 Josh Fuller, 7 Elliott Birmingham, 8 Carl Tahatu, 9 Ben Collison (c), 10 Stephen Murchie, 11 Jason Birney, 12 Glen Pollard, 13 Rusiate Loganimasi, 14 Saimoni Rokowaqa, 15 Harrison Cusack. Coach: Doug Murray.
Lismore: 1 Greg Martin, 2 Cameron Bryant, 3 Gavin Tulk, 4 Dylan Tulk, 5 Ben Briggs, 6 Stephen Prosser, 7 Tyler Coveney, 8 Nigel Marshall, 9 Will Fairweather, 10.Cody Johnston, 11 Andrew Sky, 12 Brenden Williams (c), 13 Rory Richardson, 14 Toby Wongkruth, 15 Nick McLaren. Coach: Ray Taylor.
Referee: Peter Campbell.