Great Scott, he's back!
BALLINA coach Mick McGregor is set to pluck former NSW Country representative Kane Scott from the obscurity of the lower grades for today’s Coopers Far North Coast rugby union grand final against arch rivals Lennox Head at Crozier Field in Lismore.
The Seahorses are struggling with a string of injuries in their backline so McGregor has searched the depths of the Ballina club to find an outside back – his search turned up the multiple premiership-winning, former first-grade captain and Cockatoos rep.
Scott stepped down from first grade last season but has played enough third grade and second grade games to qualify for the late call-up.
However, McGregor did not name the fullback/winger in the program, instead opting to try to fool the opposition by naming 40-year-old club president Al Barrett on the wing.
“Al laughed and said I couldn’t do that but to tell the truth we have a few options,” McGregor said.
When told Lennox counterpart Paul Jeffrey knew of the fix, McGregor chuckled: “He’d be pretty close to the mark. He has so many spies over here he usually knows what I’m doing before I do.
“Kane didn’t believe me at first when I said I might use him but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.”
The Seahorses, who have stormed into the decider from fourth spot, look certain to be missing livewire winger Ben Robinson and talismanic fullback Luke Watling after injuries in the preliminary final last Saturday.
It means Ballina will have the underdog status up against a Trojans team looking for their third straight premiership and the chance to finish the season undefeated.
Jeffrey’s team will be wary of their Ballina Shire adversaries after two torrid round clashes that pushed the competition pacesetters 29-19 and 10-6.
“They are a good side especially in defence because they scramble well,” Jeffrey said.
“But we’re pretty confident in what we do. We’re not going to change anything ... we will run the ball.”
History also beckons the Lennox side. If they win their third straight premiership they will be only the third club to do so in the 41-year history of the competition.
Coffs Harbour (which won eight straight from 1973 to 1980) and Ballina (which won five from 1997 to 2001) are the only other clubs to do so.
“It would be great if this team could join that group and be part of history,” Jeffrey said.
“I guess the beauty of the side is that a great number of players have remained. We haven’t had a huge turnover.”
Indeed, six players – prop Matt Liddle, hooker Jamie Tredinnick, flanker Harry Witt, halfback Adam Gordon, five-eighth Matt Barnes, winger Tony Buchanan and inside centre Sam Stewart – will play in their third grand final today. Six others will play in their second.
FIRST GRADE – 6.30pm
Lennox Head: 1 Matt Liddle, 2 Jamie Tredinnick, 3 Phil Tyler, 4 Richard Jeffers, 5 Jaysen Thompson, 6 Jeff Wilson (c), 7 Harry Witt, 8 Ben Rampling, 9 Adam Gordon, 10 Mathew Barnes, 11 Matt Aherne, 12 Sam Stewart, 13 Braidon Boniface, 14 Tony Buchanan, 15 Paul Crozier, 18 James Coventry.
Coach: Paul Jeffrey.
Ballina: 1 Syd Etuati, 2 Jacques Lotter (c), 3 Adam Thomas, 4, Chris Long, 5 Brett McLennan, 6 Chad Duensing, 7 Andrew Burke, 8 Ryan Hamilton, 9 Troy Nichols, 10 Adam Fisher, 11 Ray Carriage, 12 Liam Preston, 13 Rick Randall, 14 Al Barrett, 15 Mathew Thompson.
Coach: Mick McGregor.
Referee: Graham Cook.
Assistant referees: Rob Walker, Aaron Reid.