Rovers lose star striker
RICHMOND Rovers have been dealt a massive blow with news that a knee injury could force star striker Matthew Olley to miss the entire season of Football FNC's premier league.
The veteran finisher played a leading role in steering Rovers to the minor premiership last year, winning both the Player of the Year and Golden Boot awards in the process.
But a knee injury suffered in a preseason trial game against Lismore Thistles is worse than initially feared, with Olley ruled out for at least 10 weeks and possibly the entire season.
The bad news is a shattering blow for new Rovers coach Brian Bugden, on the verge of their vital Anzac Cup clash against arch-rivals Byron Bay at the Bay on Sunday.
"It's a huge blow for us, he was the best player in the league last year and it's not just his individual skills we'll miss, but also his experience in leading our younger players," Bugden said.
Rovers were already grappling with the departure of two of their most experienced players in Ian McGregor and Mitchell Flower, and with several others injured, will field a depleted line-up against the Rams.
Russell Dent scored twice in their 3-1 win over newly promoted Lennox Head last week, but will be missing on Sunday, along with Jonathan See, Andrew Casagrande, Adam Gray and Ben Miller.
In contrast, Byron Bay will be at full strength, with Sam Owens coming in to boost the lineup that had a comfortable 4-1 win over Italo Stars in their first hit out.
"We respect Rovers immensely," said Rams coach Peter Ware.
"Like us, they always play an attacking game and like us they have plenty of speed, so it certainly won't be a dull game."
The two clubs have a freakish record of having drawn every match for the last three years, but with Rovers badly depleted, the Rams will never have a better chance to end the uncanny sequence.
The match kicks off at 4.30pm.
Reigning Anzac Cup champions Goonellabah are under pressure, facing a must-win home clash against Lismore Workers' powerful line-up today at 8pm.
After a 2-1 loss to Thistles last week, the Hornets hopes of a title defence now hinge on success against a side that beat them 4-1 just a fortnight ago in the Corey New Cup.
Goalkeeper Brad Robertson will make a surprise return to their line-up, while Workers have Clint Willoughby, Kurt Walker and Kurt Stephens all back, after missing their 3-1 win over Casino last week.
One other game will be played tonight, with Italo Stars and Lennox Head each looking for their first win when they meet on Stars home turf at 8pm.
Two other matches will be played on Sunday, with Casino and Ballina also looking for their first win at Casino, while Alstonville hosts Lismore Thistles, both from 4.30pm.