Ballina hooker Andrew Battese will be key to a Seagulls win over Mullumbimby Mustangs today at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.
Ballina hooker Andrew Battese will be key to a Seagulls win over Mullumbimby Mustangs today at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina. Marc Stapelberg

Hoey secret weapon

JUST when you thought teenagers had lost interest in becoming first grade rugby league players, along comes a kid like Nathan Hoey and blows that the theory out of the water.

The 18-year-old is everything that country rugby league should be about: Hoey played all his juniors at Ballina and was keen to come into first grade after two years in the under 18s.

Hoey will have his work cut out for him when the Seagulls lock horns with the undefeated Murwillumbah Mustangs in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League clash at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina tomorrow afternoon.

He will start fresh from the bench and will have plenty of confidence, after a two-try effort in the 30-22 win against Northern United on Wednesday night.

"The best thing about Hoey is that he loves the game and just loves being around the boys," Ballina coach Greg Barnes said.

"He is killing it with his leg drive and he's scoring and saving tries.

"We've had a tough week (with the game on Wednesday night) but we're going into this expecting to win."

The Seagulls blew Marist Brothers off the paddock with a comprehensive 40-22 victory last weekend, before the determined mid-week win against the Dirawongs.

"Murwillumbah is just another side and we're always confident at home," Hoey said.

"If we tackle their big guys around the legs, we can't go wrong.

"Our defence and quick play-the-balls are winning us games at the moment."

Hoey was full of praise for hooker Andrew Battese, who has been in sparkling form since returning to the league from Gold Coast Rugby Union this season.

"Andrew Battese is a great hooker and gets us on the front foot," Hoey said.

"He runs the side in a very quiet manner but everyone respects the way he plays.

"He'll do anything for the team and knows what to say when the chips are down."

Under 18s captain Jacob Follent comes in to the side to replace injured halfback Nikko Roberts.

Murwillumbah will be without centre Michael Keating, after he broke his wrist last weekend.

"Not much changes for us and it will be a very forwards orientated game," Mustangs coach Troy McLean said.

"We don't know too much about them but it's a big ask to play three games in one week."

Kick-off is 2.45pm.

Ballina Seagulls: 1 Ben Robinson, 2 Luke Simpson, 3 Anthony Colman, 4 Fred Pitt, 5 Tyrone Kelly, 6 Alwyn Roberts, 7 Jacob Follent, 8 Rory Skinner, 9 Andrew Battese, 10 Dean French, 11 Greg Ryan, 12 Simon Perkins, 13 Kane Montgomery.

Murwillumbah Mustangs: 1 Dylan Smith, 2 Michael Forrester, 3 Damian Quinn, 4 Chris Patterson, 5 Caleb Howell, 6 Matt Goodfellow, 7 Nathan Jordan, 8 Lynden Murphy, 9 Sam Panting, 10 Shane Kite, 11 Luke Covell, 12 Tim James, 13 Shawn Dorney.



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