Pioneer brothers aim high in rugby finals
BROTHERS Ben and Daniel Damen will play finals together for the first time since 2013 in the Far North Coast rugby union major semi-final at Lyle Park, Wollongbar, today.
The pair last played together in the 2013 grand final loss to Lismore before Daniel moved to Townsville when he joined the army. He came home a few months ago and returned to the top grade in the final round.
It's a talented family with Ben being a NSW Country rep while Daniel represented NSW at junior level and was named its Player of the Year in 2010.
Middle brother Josh Damen also played for the Pioneers and has represented PNG in rugby league.
Ben Damen has been at the helm in the Pioneers' four straight premierships and has plenty of motivation for a fifth.
"I haven't won a grand final with either of them so it would be special to be able to do that this year,” he said.
"Half the reason Dan came back was so we could play together and we want to make the most of that.
"He hasn't played much since he left but he still has the ability and he's pretty aggressive for a winger.
"Our wingers complement each other well and they both like getting their hands on the ball and taking on their man.”
Ballina wingers Terry Ferguson and Joel Noble are playing their first semi-final in the top grade and their clash with Damen and James Vidler should be a highlight.
The Pioneers have lost only one game all season and it was in the third round against Ballina.
Ballina has plenty of experience in the forwards with the likes of flanker Andrew Burke and second-rowers Ryan Hamilton and Ryan O'Connor, which could give them the edge.
The Pioneers will welcome the return of second-rower Steve Mison, who has been out with a long-term calf injury, while Vaughan Sandral has also been named on the bench.
"Steve has been out for a while but you know what you're going to get with him,” Ben Damen said.
"He's a big body that runs the ball hard and we've missed his size in the forward pack.
"He and Vaughan can interchange with each other and we're lucky to have a full fresh bench.”
Kick-off is 3.15pm.
In other games today, minor premiers Ballina take on Lennox Head in reserve grade at 1.50pm and Evans River plays Yamba in President's Cup at 12.30pm.
(at Lyle Park, Wollongbar)
First grade at 3.15pm
Wollongbar-Alstonville: 1 Matthew Wright, 2 Bill Johnston, 3 Benji Tiatia, 4, Matt Scott, 5 Steven Mison, 6 Nick Pennisi, 7 Hamish Mould, 8 Austin Markwort, 9 Louis Hollman, 10 Ben Damen (c), 23 Daniel Damen, 12 George Toomey, 13 Matt Nean, 14 James Vidler, 15 Sam Kerry, 24 Brandon Whitney, 17 Jaiden Reginato, 18 Jayden Lynch, 19 Josh Galbraith, 20 Vaughan Sandral, 21 Angus Thearle, 22 Jaiden McDonald, 11 Jarrod Wyllie. Coach: Ern Sandral.
Ballina: 1 Sam Pearce, 2 Brett Johnston, 3 Isaac Pratten, 4 Ryan Hamilton, 5 Ryan O'Connor, 6 Chris Wilkinson, 7 Andrew Burke (c), 8 Brad Brown, 9 Nick Watson, 10 Beau Clarke, 11 Terry Ferguson, 12 Anthony Lolohea, 13 Joel Staude, 14 Joel Noble, 15 Tom Watson. Coach: Chris Hickey.
Referee: Graham Cook.
Assistant referees: Matthew Clayton, James McElligott.
Reserve grade at 1.50pm
Ballina: 1 Fotofili Esau, 2 Luke Sipple, 3 Nathan Groves, 4, Josh Pauling, 5 Jakob O 'Connor, 6 Jack Reynolds, 7 Luke Kliese, 8 Beau Milner, 9 Josh Wrigley, 10 Nick Brydon, 11 Leigh Foster, 12 Matt Lloyd, 13 Seamus Reen, 14 Joe Jansson, 15 Cody Campbell, 16 Joel McMahon, 17 Chris Briggs, 18 Brad Grono, 19 Isaijha Donovan, 20 Aniri Whewell, 21 Jamie Coote, 22 Harry Price, 23 Daniel Cotes. Coach: Paul Davies.
Lennox Head: 1 Jacob Creagh, 2 Brad McGoulrick, 3 Connor Blair, 4 Keith Pickett, 5 Mick Muir, 6 Jack Tyndall, 7 Matthew Vievers, 8 Hayden Farrell, 9 James Barnes, 10 Bart Whiteley, 11 Tasman De Groot, 12 Scott Stapleton, 13 Sam Fitzgerald, 14 Caleb Kirchen, 15 Billy Goldsmith, 16 Angus Langfield, 17 Nick Bordin, 18 John Clark, 19 Jake Buckley, 20 Toby Creagh, 21 Rowan Morgan, 22 Jye Watkins, 23 Adam Gordon. Coach: James Pearson
Referee: Dylan Harris.
Assistant referees: Allan Thomas, Brady Fuhrmann.
President's Cup at 12.30pm
Evans River: 1 Les Moreman, 2 Derrick Duignan, 3 Chris Barnard, 4 Brody Scheerhorn, 5 Max Pye, 6 Scott Willis, 7 James Quinn, 8 Mark Harrington, 9 Luke Cleaver (c), 10 Dale Layland, 11 Harry Daley, 12 Jarrad Cameron, 13 Alister DeBritt, 14 Adam Armistead, 15 Michael Miskle, 16 Connor Thornley, 17 Paul Hope, 18 David Mason, 19 Desmond Long, 20 Payden Samuel- sson, 21 Andrew Levett, 22 Grant Cleaver, 23 Asofitu Foster. Coach: Jarrad Cameron.
Yamba: 1 Jordan Walker, 2 Thomas Mather, 3 Bleddyn Gant, 4 Rob Hill, 5 Ewen McQueen, 6 Tom Durrington, 7 Ryan Green, 8 Joe Walker, 9 Sam Zuill, 10 Jason James (c), 11 Callan Obst, 12 Taamo Charlie, 13 Andrew Kapeen, 14 James Fairweather, 15 Adrian Miller, 16 Stephen Hind, 17 Mitch McLennan, 18 Rob Tierney, 19 Scott Boothby, 20 Pat Hughes, 21 Sam Bloomer, 22 Troy Harding, 23 Brad Gray. Coach: Scott Moore.
Referee: Peter Brown.
Assistant referees: Peter Campbell, Darrin Faulkner.
(at Quays Reserve, Ballina)
First grade at 3.15pm
Lennox Head: 1 Matt Liddle, 2 John Young, 3 Curtis Miles, 4, Jono Huddy, 5 Harry Bungate, 6 Hayden Blair, 7 Luke Mounic, 8 Daniel Alley, 9 Abe Goldsmith, 10 Hugo Marks, 11 Sam Fitzgerald, 12 Zac Beecher, 13 Brad Lees (c) 14 Martin McNamara, 15 Paul Crozier, 16 Connor Blair, 17 Jacob Creagh, 18 Jack Tyndall, 19 Jake Buckley, 20 Mackenzie Winchester, 21 Bart Whiteley, 22 Tasman De Groot. Coach: Jason McCombie.
Byron Bay: 1 Matt Sloyan, 2 Will Rudkin, 3 Charles Woollard, 4 Joffrey Common, 5 Jack Cooke, 6 Evan Mallory, 7 Bedwyr Davies, 8 Craig Wallace, 9 Blake Whittakar, 10 Joel Stocks, 11 Jascha Saeck, 12 Harvey Bell (c), 13 Jordan Foster, 14 James Boozer, 15 James Oakley, 16 Dan Burnham, 17 Cash Chapman, 18 Josh Smith. Coach: Jeff Watt.
Referee: Matthew Clayton.
Assistant referees: Graham Cook, James McElligott.
Reserve grade at 1.50pm
Byron Bay: 1 Dan Richards, 2 Andrew Teuma (c), 3 Richard Atkin, 4 Nathan Baggaley, 5 Dan Burnham, 6 Eli Colbey, 7 Mark Howard, 8 Michael Armstrong, 9 Luke Sullivan, 10 James Bulmer, 11 Ben Darlet, 12 Rob Lynch , 13 Romey Vassell, 14 Michael Cooney, 15 Joel Turner, 16 Rob Currie, 17 Mitch King, 18 Sam Ivers, 19 Dan George, 20 Anthony Barchard, 21 Lachlan Crombie, 22 Chris Parsons. Coach: Jeff Watt.
Mullumbimby: 1 Glenn Abbott, 2 Corey Jolly, 3 Andrew Jordan-Brown, 4 Kurt McDonald, 5 Mitch Parr, 6 Duncan Kendall (c), 7 Nick Frazier, 8 Teale Pyne, 9 Dillon Pyne, 10 Timothy Watkins, 11 Josh Mudge, 12 Byron Flynn, 13 Jack Govett, 14 Matt Wyness, 15 Ethan Woods, 16 Michael Caulcutt, 17 Satuala Siamoa, 18 Sean Watkins, 19 Nathan Nicholls, 20 Luke Caldwell, 21 Jay Barnes, 22 Matt McMullen, 23 Jason Willis. Coach: Satuala Siamoa.
Referee: Allan Thomas.
Assistant referees: Guy Latham, Darrin Faulkner.
President's Cup at 12.30pm
Kyogle: 1 Kye Hill, 2 Adrian Olive, 3 Michael Serone, 4 Brad Booth, 5 Billy McQueen, 6 Mark Benn, 7 Chris Duley, 8 Lance McQueen, 9 Mathew Duley (c), 10 Kroydan Heron, 11 Damien Ryan, 12 Brad Batchelor, Mitch Nicholson, 14 Tim Felsch, 25 David Stephenson, 16 Michael Scofield, 17 Nathan Farragher, 18 Patrick Maddock, 19 Jacob McElligott, 20 Hayden Goodwin, 21 Nathan Henderson, 22 Jack Fergus, 23 Pat Kelly. Coach: Mathew Duley.
Tenterfield: 1 Matt Duff, 2 Matt Bertalli, 3 Ben Sharpe, 4 Jeremy Phipps (c), 5 Mick O'Neill, 6 Murray Johnson, 7 Grant Townes, 8 Anthony Thomas, 9 Jack Thomas, 10 Adam Clothier, 11 Lachlan Dorward, 12 Josh Lucas, 13 Jason Maunder, 14 Matt Clothier, 15 George Jones, 16 Patrick Spillane, 17 Jayson Murphy, 18 Ben Johnston, 19 Ben Battistuzzi, 20 Thomas Grimson, 21 Liam Hutchinson, 22 Jackson Fitzgerald, 23 Kurt Frattin. Coach: Phil Jones.
Referee: Peter Campbell.
Assistant referees: Peter Brown, Bruce Ward.