New season, new look for local clubs
NEW club Bangalow will get its first taste of first grade against the Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers in Far North Coast rugby union at Lyle Park, Wollongbar, today.
Byron Bay has also entered the top grade for the first time in several years and will come up against the Southern Cross Uni-versity Gold Rats at Maurie Ryan Oval, Lismore.
In other games, Lismore City has been busy in a recruitment drive and will debut several new players against the Grafton Redmen at Grafton Rugby Park.
Defending premiers Lennox Head Trojans will start their season against the Casino Bulls at Williams Reserve, Lennox Head.
Ballina has the bye after Yamba dropped out of first grade earlier this week.
All games will kick off at 3.15pm
Below is a look at how teams shape up for 2013.
Gains: Mark McCombe (England), Beauttlar Filimoehala (moved back to the area), Joel McMahon (Wollongbar-Alstonville Pioneers)
Losses: Luke Watling (left area)
Coach: John Dokter
Comment: "The numbers and enthusiasm at training have been great so far," Dokter said. "Hopefully things will keep going well and we can improve on last year."
Gains: Will Latham (SCU Gold Rats) Dean Matthews, Will Cotterill (Lismore City)
Coach: Andrew Fraser and Will Cotterill
Comment: "It's going to be a development year for the club and it's a big step up," Fraser said.
"Our aim is to do the little things right and be competitive. We want to model ourselves on what Lennox Head has done and build for future success."
Gains: Not available.
Losses: Not available.
Coach: Warren Fisher
Comment: "We're all set to go and look forward to the challenge of first grade," club president Paul Connell said. "We probably need to bolster our front row and we'll use blokes who are new to the area."
Gains: Travis Paul (moved to the area from Grafton)
Losses: Tom Bishop (Lismore City), Lachlan Winkler (overseas)
Coach: Joe Moham-med
Comment: "We've been a bit off and on with the weather but we had a good hit-out against a Brisbane side and played in a pre-season 10s competition," Mohammed said. "Hopefully we can get a few more numbers and we're looking forward to our first game."
Gains: Benjamin Thomas (United States), Todd De Bono (Grafton rugby league)
Losses: Brad Lloyd, Sean Austin (year off)
Coach: Peter Tonkin
Comment: "We've always had the size up front but lacked a bit in the backs," Tonkin said. "We've made a few adjustments and we're confident with our mix of experience and younger blokes."
Gains: Dudley Parsons (Wellington, NZ), Kornelio Feaunati (Dun-edin, NZ), Geraint Weaver (Wales), Jack Pinchin (Sydney Southern Districts), Tom Bishop (Casino Bulls), Mick Munro (Marist Brothers rugby league)
Losses: Will Cotterill, Dean Matthews (Bangalow)
Coach: Craig Whitby
Comment: "Having all the new blokes arrive has brought a lot of enthusiasm and we have high hopes of having a good year," Whitby said.
"We've been training hard and I've had help from John Lisetto, Ron Cox and Ray Taylor."
Lennox Head Trojans
Gains: Harry Witt (SCU Gold Rats)
Losses: Sam Croke, Jack Davies, Lachlan Creagh (North Sydney Colts), Sam Stewart (year off), Kalib Cupples (left area for work)
Coach: Mick Muir
Comment: "Everything is going well and we've had good numbers so far," Muir said. "We've lost a few players but having Harry back is a massive bonus."
Southern Cross University Gold Rats
Gains: Brett Johnston, Blake Brewer-Charles, Alex Roffey (returning to the club), Cameron Pollard (Lismore City), Jackson Wells, Gerard Howard, Mitchell Slaven (new students)
Losses: Harry Witt (Lennox Head), Will Latham (Bangalow)
Coach: Col Pursche
Comment: "In many ways this squad is a throwback to the old days of College rugby," club president Jack Quigley said. "We have a large squad of young talented footballers and have already established a very strong bond within the entire club. "Don't rule us out of a semi-final spot if we can keep our key players fit."
Gains: Jeremy Tozer (moved back to the area), Daniel Damen, Benji Tiatia (Brisbane), Jason Higgins (year off), Tom Steer (Eng-land)
Losses: Simon Tozer (left the area), Dan Mather (returned to England), Jake McIntyre (Sunnybank), Joel McMahon (Ballina)
Coach: Ben Grayndler
Comment: "We have a good squad of about 20 and as long as everyone stays fit I think we can go all right," Grayndler said. "I think Lismore will be strong this season and you don't know what to expect from the new teams."