ONCE A DEVIL: Clarence Kelly, has switched his allegiances from the Byron Bay Red Devils to Northern United this season.
ONCE A DEVIL: Clarence Kelly, has switched his allegiances from the Byron Bay Red Devils to Northern United this season.

NRRRL newbies gear up for competition

ALL eyes will be on the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) newcomers, Northern United and Evans Head, when the competition kicks off on the weekend of April 18-19.

The NRRRL has released its draw and Northern United will play a home game against Lower Clarence in the opening round, while Evans Head won't have too far to travel when they take on the Ballina Seagulls, in Ballina.

The NRRRL has, for the moment, shelved plans for a north/south conference style competition to reduce travel costs, in favour of as many local derbies as possible.

There will be 18 rounds of home and away matches followed by the finals with the grand final set down for mid-September.

Northern United has been training for the past four weeks and recruited some big-name stars from both within the NRRRL and outside the Northern Rivers.

By far the club's biggest signing is Milton Thaiday, who played for the Newcastle Knights two seasons ago and has also played union for the NSW Waratahs.

United has also picked up two other former Souths players in Fred Waters and Mick Moran, as well as Chris Swan, who has been kicking around in the Newcastle local league competition.

From other NRRRL clubs, United has swayed Alwyn Roberts (Marist Brothers) to join them, along with Clarence Kelly (Byron Bay), Tyson Binge (Ballina) and Justin Bolt (Ballina).

Northern United coach Chris Binge said despite the restriction of only being allowed to sign three senior players from any other NRRRL club this season, United had about 40 players training regularly.

“We are pretty happy with where we are situated in the draw and we are looking forward to continuing our training and kicking off the start of the season in the best possible way,” Binge said.

“We've got a couple of pre-season trial games in the next few weeks and that will give us an indication of where we are situated for next season

“We have set some goals for ourselves and as a club and that all starts in that first game against Lower Clarence.”

Evans Head, coached by former Cudgen Hornet Damien Bryant, are also gearing up for the season ahead.

Although Evans Head made the second grade grand final last season, Byrant knows first grade will be a significant step-up in class.

“I'd say about half to three quarters of the players who've turned up to training this year are from last year's team,” Bryant said.

“But we are a new club, with new combinations, and we are just going to work on taking it one week at a time.”

Evans Head will play the Burleigh Bears' Gold Coast Rugby League team in a trial match on March 14.

The club has signed Tim Tredigo from Marist Brothers and also had a number of rugby union converts from Lismore, Ballina and Evans Head join the training group which numbers over 40 at this stage.

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