Seagulls pin hopes on youth
SEVEN teenagers will line up for the Ballina Seagulls in the NovaSkill Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League preliminary final against Grafton Ghosts at Frank McGuren Field, Grafton, tomorrow.
Nikko Roberts, Alex Grant, Jess Perry, Nathan Hoey, Brett Kelly, Rory Skinner and Anthony Colman were only born around the time Ballina last won a first-grade premiership.
It's been 19 years between drinks for the Seagulls and getting past Ghosts at home is never easy.
"It's good to have teenagers in the squad because they listen and don't go on other teams' reputations," coach Greg Barnes said.
"Half of them wouldn't even know the names of the blokes we're playing against and that's probably a good thing."
However, Grafton know all about the young guns from the Seagulls and who they will need to shut down to advance to the grand final against Murwillumbah next weekend.
"They're fit, young and enthusiastic," Ghosts captain-coach Ryan Farrell said.
"We'll be watching them and we need to shut down Nikko Rob-erts at the back.
"If we play as a team and defend well we'll go a long way towards winning this one."
Ballina have beaten Ghosts at Grafton this season and had to overcome a heavy penalty count to do it.
They expect more of the same tomorrow and aren't expecting any 50/50 decisions to go their way in front of a vocal home crowd.
"Grafton will get all the calls and we'll just have to combat that with our defence," Barnes said.
"We've won only one penalty count all year so it's nothing new to us and we'll just have to tackle all day.
"We've had the same game plan since March and nothing changes.
"We're on a bit of a roll and hopefully our fitness will help us at the back end of the game and we can kick away a bit."
Grafton winger Joel Moss is in doubt with an ankle injury and will be given until today to prove his fitness.
Farrell was one of the best on the field for Ghosts last week and looks forward to coming up against rival halfback Andrew Battese.
"He is a different style of player to me but it's one I'm looking forward to," Farrell said.
"You want to test yourself against the best players in the competition in these games."
Kick-off is 2.45pm.
In a big day for the club, Ghosts' reserve grade team plays Murwillumbah at 1pm and the Under-18s take on Marist Brothers at 11.30am.