Rovers See a saviour
THE loss of star striker Matthew Olley has Richmond Rovers relying on young gun Jonathan See to make the step up when they launch the defence of their minor premiership title in the opening round of Football FNC's premier league tomorrow.
Rovers host danger side Alstonville from 3pm and without Olley up front will need See to take on more responsibility in attack.
Olley won both the Player of the Year and Golden Boot awards as he led Rovers to the minor premiership and grand final last year, but a shattering knee injury in a trial game has ruled him out for possibly the entire season.
See is the obvious heir apparent, with the prodigiously talented 20-year-old the Rovers' second-highest scorer for the past two years.
"He has unlimited ability and we haven't seen the best of him yet," Rovers coach Brian Bugden said.
"Jonno just needs to back himself a bit more to really make a big impact at the top level and, from a team perspective, he's certainly our go-to man when it comes to scoring goals."
With speed, sleight of foot and deadly from a set play, See has all the attributes to capitalise on any weakness in opposing defences and will be a big part of Rovers' plans this season.
With a full-strength side that includes late signings Matt Pratten from Stars and Kurt Brewer Charles from Workers, Rovers will start as favourites, but Villa has shown good early form and will be pumped up to start its season with an upset over the reigning premiers.
"We're starting to close the gap on the top sides and want to capitalise on the early momentum we've built up in the Anzac Cup," Villa coach Troy Taylor said.
"Not only have our results been good, but so too our standard of play and ability to finish, so if we maintain the quality, the results should look after themselves."
Villa captain Joel Perkins will steer the club's ambitious, young outfit from the centre of midfield, while strikers Rick Hanna and Liam Giles are in good form and will test Rovers' defence.
But perhaps its two most important players will be 17-year-old central defenders Nick Steel and Matt Campbell.
The two have combined well so far, but their ability to contain See as he spearheads Rovers' formidable attack will play a large role in the outcome.
Two other games will be played tomorrow, with Thistles expected to get the better of Casino at Casino and Lismore Workers hot favourites against newly promoted Lennox Head at Skenners Head, both at 3pm.
On Sunday, Byron Bay should be untroubled when it hosts Italo Stars, while Goonellabah also looks too strong in its home clash with Ballina, both from 2.30pm.