New look for past grand finalists
IF Lower Clarence and Northern United are to repeat their run to the 2009 NRRRL grand final, they are going to have to find a different way.
Both clubs have been gutted of talent in the off-season and will field sides that, apart from the jersey, barely resemble those which fought out the field-goal thriller.
Each club will turn out with a new coach and a new captain in 2010.
Northern United, fresh from a first-up run to the grand final, have undergone wholesale changes.
Gone are NRL-experienced livewires Roy Bell and Michael Moran as well as coach Chris Binge, with halfback Willie Hammond to lead the team as captain-coach.
Hammond, who was heartbroken after watching Grant Brown sink his side with the winning field goal last year, has decided to go around once more after planning to retire after last season.
“It’s good to have Browny jump ship and come on board with us,” Hammond said.
“He is the kind of player you want in your team.
“Put an eight on his back and he will play well in the front row; put a two on his back and he will score tries on the wing.”
Brown has landed in the back-row for the Dirawongs after playing fullback for the Magpies last year.
While Binge has officially handed over the coaching reins to concentrate on the development of his son, Chris jnr, who is playing with the Brisbane Broncos Under-20s, he will still have a hand in the Dirawongs’ quest as a consultant.
At Lower Clarence, grand final utility Anthony Hickling has been handed the role as five-eighth and on-field boss for the premiers.
And he is well aware the Magpies will be running around with targets on their backs this season after breaking a 25-year premiership drought.
“It’s a whole new ball game for us this year,” Hickling said. “We will be under pressure every week with teams wanting to come out and get stuck into the premiers.”
The new captain insists he will be leading a very different team around the park.
“There are only a handful of blokes still here from last year,” he said.
“No one is playing in the same position but we have started to get our combinations in order and run some good plays.”
The Magpies, now coached by Ricky Binge, defeated Casino 66-16 in a trial game last week.