Key is youth and speed

QUICK men darting around the ruck will be the key when the cream of Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League take on Central-Hunter at Port Macquarie this afternoon.

The Thunderbolts travel south to take on the Power in an early representative hit-out which will raise the curtain for the NSW City-Country Origin match, and coach Max Beecher has employed a new game plan to tackle the traditionally giant side studded with the best players from the Newcastle competition.

Tired of seeing his side out-muscled in the middle of the ruck, Beecher has instilled his No 6, No 7 and No 9 as the men to lead the way.

“We have gone for youth and speed this year,” Beecher said.

“Our plan will be to play fast football and hopefully that will put their big pack on the back foot.”

Five-eighth Ben Crawford was fingered as one to provide plenty of spark, but the crafty Seagull was quick to throw his team-mates into the spotlight.

“The old veteran Willie Hammond will be running the show and hopefully (Andrew) Battese can cause plenty of havoc around the ruck,” Crawford said.

“Then I can chime in and do my job, which will be to get the ball out wide to our strike players in Clarence (Kelly) and Aaron (Hartman).”

Kelly and Hartman, who will play in the centres, have had their lot made easier by the selectors, who opted to place their club wingers outside them.

Beecher has also chosen a mobile bench with Byron Bay’s Bill Lowrie and the Grafton Rhinos’ Todd Cameron set to ignite the match when the big men get tired.

Both men started the NRRRL season in the No 1 jersey for their clubs but shape as Beecher’s trump cards tonight.

“They all deserve their spots and Toddy is a real dynamic little player,” Beecher said.

“We will look to get him in around the ruck and cause a few problems for the defence.”

The Thunderbolts arrived in Port Macquarie yesterday where they had their final serious run before game-day preparations today.

Northern Rivers Thunderbolts:

1 John Freeman (Ballina) 2 Brad Lees (Byron Bay) 3 Clarence Kelly (Byron Bay) 4 Aaron Hartman (Ghosts) 5 Carson Galloway (Ghosts) 6 Ben Crawford (Ballina) 7 Willie Hammond (Northern United) 8 Sef Silafau (Casino) 9 Andrew Battese (Ballina) 10 Simon Kelly (Byron Bay) 11 Don Dickson (Ghosts) 12 Scott McLennan (Ballina) 13 Alwyn Roberts (c) (Northern United) 14 Todd Cameron (Rhinos) 15 Luke Pettit (Brothers) 16 Grant Stevens (Ghosts) 17 Bill Lowrie (Byron Bay).

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