Seahorses seven on debut
SEVEN players will make their first- grade debut for Ballina Seahorses in the first round of Far North Coast rugby union competition at Quays Reserve, Ballina, this afternoon.
Aidan Cubis, Nathan Groves, Josh Lupton, Lucas De Maria, Grant Knight, Olly Kirk and Dan Cotes will help form the new-look Seahorses against Lismore City at 3.15pm.
Cotes, 25, and Groves, 26, make their debuts after playing lower grades for the past couple of seasons.
Cubis, De Maria, Knight and Lupton are fresh out of the 2011 under-19 team.
Lupton is a second-rower and similar build to his father Karl, a multiple premiership-winning captain and club stalwart.
Kirk is from a soccer background but impressed enough playing at fullback in the pre-season trials to earn a spot on the wing.
"It's a good thing to have that many making their debut because they're either young or have proven themselves enough in the pre-season to warrant selection," new coach Craig Beare said.
"There is no pressure on us this season because we have a lot of youth.
"I think expectations are a bit lower because we've had a big changing of the guard.
"I don't know what to expect from Lismore but I imagine they'll be the team to beat this season alongside Lennox Head.
"We'll just try to do what we do best and if our system doesn't work, we'll address it at training."
While Lismore have a few new faces themselves, they will also have plenty of strike power in the backs with five-eighth Matt Bermingham and centres Nigel Marshall and Stephen Hughes.
"We have three or four blokes away and we've made some positional changes," Lismore player-coach Will Cotterill said.
"We're a bit light on in the tight five so we'll try to spread it wide and attack on the edges.
"We still have some big lumps up front and they won't mind running the ball off the side of the ruck too."
In other games, Casino will look to carry their impressive trial form into their first game of the season against the Southern Cross University Gold Rats at Maurie Ryan Oval, Lismore.
Rats captain Harry Witt has relinquished the coaching role and moved back to his preferred position at flanker this season.
Defending premiers Lennox Head Trojans will take on a team that started pre-season training before Christmas when the Grafton Redmen travel to Williams Reserve, Lennox Head.
Kick-off is 3.15pm.
Ballina: 1 Adam Thomas, 2 Aidan Cubis, 3 Nathan Groves, 4 Josh Hickey, 5 Josh Lupton, 6 Lucas De Maria, 7 Andrew Burke, 8 Liam Preston, 9 Troy Nicholls, 10 Grant Knight, 11 Olly Kirk, 12, Dan Cotes, 13 Trent Gasnier, 14 Luke Watling, 15 Rick Randall. Coach: Craig Beare.
Lismore: 1 Stuart Rose, 2 Stephen Prosser, 3 Eddie Solomona, 4 Ben Briggs, 5 Terence Call, 6 Simon Mahony, 7 James Olivieri, 8 Will Cotterill, 9 Ben Felicioni, 10 Matt Bermingham, 11 James O'Brien, 12 Nigel Marshall, 13 Stephen Hughes, 14 Robbie Collings, 15 Mark Sivewright. Coach: Will Cotterill.
Southern Cross University: 1 Tom Purcell, 2 Alex Roffey, 3 Daniel Wade, 4 Patrick Wilton, 5 Keith Morris, 6 Rhys McNaughton, 7 Harry Witt, 8 Ben Prozinski, 9 Matt Anderson, 10 Luke Neal, 11 Dallas Abel, 12 Brendan Brooke, 13 Callum Lenard, 14 Bob White, 15 Will Latham. Coach: Matt Barlow.
Casino: 1 Reece Manning, 2 Blake Birmingham, 3 Craig Connolly, 4 Cal McLennan, 5 Tom Penford, 6 Pat Herman, 7 Carl Tahatu, 8 Ben Osborne, 9 Stephen Murchie, 10 Lachlan Winkler, 11 Jayden Torrens, 12 Jarrad Newton, 13 Brad Wenzel, 14 Cale Berry, 15 Tom Farr. Coach: Darren Winkler.
Lennox Head: 1 Rob Roberts, 2 Connor Blair, 3 Jack Bungate, 4 Mick Muir, 5 Isaac Foley, 6 Rob Fish, 7 Jeff Wilson (c), 8 Brock Jensen, 9 Paul Wright, 10 Matt Bindon, 11 Tim McFadden, 12, Scott Stapleton, 13 Kalib Cupples, 14 Brett Horne, 15 Paul Crozier Coach: Tony Bundock
Grafton: 1 Luke Deleiuen, 2 Jacob Page, 3 Beau Brotherson, 4 Nick Collie, 5 Ben Robertson, 6 Beau Deleiuen, 7 Jono Speechley, 8 Scott Lloyd, 9 Josh Nagle, 10 Kyle Hancock, 11 Jesse Roach, 12 Dwayne Duke, 13 Lloyd Sinapati, 14 Tom Cox, 15 Ben Stone Coach: Brad Lloyd