Ryan O’Connell in action for the Murwillumbah Mustangs last year. O’Connell will line up against the Mustangs as Byron Bay fullback tomorrow.
Ryan O’Connell in action for the Murwillumbah Mustangs last year. O’Connell will line up against the Mustangs as Byron Bay fullback tomorrow. Northern Star

O'Connell returns to Devils

BYRON BAY captain Ryan O'Connell admits he will have mixed emotions when he runs out for the Red Devils against Murwillumbah in the first round of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition at Stan Sercombe Oval, Murwillumbah, tomorrow.

O'Connell played fullback in the Mustangs team that made the grand final last season and was named in the NRRRL team of the year.

However, when the Red Devils re-entered a first-grade side after a year out of the competition and his best mate Tobin Cupples was appointed coach, the Mustangs were never going to be able to keep him for 2012.

"I played here (Byron Bay) for three years and it was easier to play with Murwillumbah last season when the Red Devils didn't have a team in first grade," O'Connell said.

"I'm coming off one of my better seasons and I was lucky to have a good forward pack in front of me.

"It was always the plan to come back and there is a really good vibe around the place."

Murwillumbah coach Troy McLean has no hard feeling towards O'Connell.

He also hopes that with the departure of Cudgen and Tweed Coast from the competition, they can develop a rivalry with the Red Devils this season.

"Ryan is a quality footballer and a champion bloke," McLean said.

"He was up front with us about it from the beginning and that's sport, people change year to year.

"Byron Bay is a bit of an unknown quantity and we don't know too much about them.

"We were under the radar a bit at the start of last season but everyone will know what to expect from us this year."

O'Connell isn't expecting any additional pressure from landing the captaincy for this season.

"I'll toss the coin and lead the boys out but I won't try to dominate the team," O'Connell said.

"It will be a bit of a learning curve and might even help me with my own game."

The decision to put O'Connell at captain was a natural one for Cupples, who is new to coaching.

"He is probably the quietest guy in the team so he won't get in trouble yelling at refs," Cupples said.

"I'm pretty confident and Ryan is pumped after the year he had."

The Red Devils also welcome back premiership-winning front-rower and former captain-coach Simon Kelly.

Kick-off is 3pm.



Byron Bay: 1 Ryan O'Connell 2 Dwayne Cahill 3 Chris King 4 Peter Flannery 5 James Harrington 6 Cameron Gibson 7 Jarred Tephierry 8 Simon Kelly 9 Kale Smith 10 Ben Molley 11 Joe Gordan 12 Luke Pettit 13 Ben Webber.

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

Ballina: 1 Ben Robinson 2 Justin Wakely 3 Fred Pitt 4 Luke Simpson 5 Tyrone Kelly 6 Brett Kelly 7 Niko Roberts 8 James Tiuneau 9 Andrew Battese 10 Dean French 11 Greg Ryan 12 Simon Perkins 13 Alwyn Roberts.

Casino: 1 Darcy Bird 2 Ben Birney 3 Todd Johnson 4 Kurt Rutley 5 Rohan Hyde 6 Te Ate Jackson 7 Matt Roberts 8 Damien Benn 9 Scott Gibson 10 George Clarke 11 Luke Scott 12 Bryce Patton 13 Caleb McIntyre.

Evans Head: 1 Terry Kelly 2 Dennis Greenup 3 Braydon Vickery 4 Garry Wimbus 5 Lloyd Lowah 6 Aaron Scells 7 Leon Kelly 8 Tim Tregidgo 9 Adam Collis 10 Alan Campbell 11 Eli Cook 12 Nathan Williams 13 Josh Cook.

Marist Brothers: 1 Blake Brewer-Charles 2 Mitch Krause 3 Dylan Coleman 4 Brendan Wall 5 Peter Jefferies 6 Jake Campbell 7 Aaron Campbell 8 Jeff Lennon 9 Paul O'Neill 10 Darryl Butcher 11 Tony Gava 12 Joe Martin 13 Corey Flaherty.

Northern United: 1 Nathaniel Reguiera 2 Joel Roberts3 Tennyson Strong 4 Dan Randall 5 Josh Benn 6 Roy Bell 7 Tim Green 8 Dave Fernando 9 Willie Hammond 10 Les Roberts 11 James Roberts 12 Jirra Breckenridge13 Kayan Davis.

Kyogle: 1 Courtney Nagas 2 Lachlan Crawter 3 Jone Macilai 4 Marshall Leisha 5 Dan Walsh 6 Isaac Royal 7 Todd Newton 8 Cameron Mulcahy 9 Simon Pederson 10 Scott Lavelle 11 Brenton Thomas 12 Travis Falls 13 Ryan Daley.

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