Sport

Teams ready for battle

Can the Grafton Ghosts make it three-in-a-row NRRRL titles?
Can the Grafton Ghosts make it three-in-a-row NRRRL titles?

THE Northern Star's Rugby League reporter Mitchell Craig takes a look at the coaches, losses and gains at clubs in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition for 2012.

BALLINA SEAGULLS

Gains

Andrew Battese (Gold Coast Breakers rugby), Greg Ryan, Simon Perkins, Dean French (year off), Nikko Roberts (Newcastle), Ben Robinson (Ballina rugby).

Losses

Don Dickson (Brisbane), Joel Roberts (Northern United).

Coaching

Greg Barnes takes the reins after working as an assistant coach last season.

Prediction

"We've got a couple of blokes back that played in the 2010 grand final," Barnes said.

"We have a new board and committee and I think we're heading in the right direction

"I think we have a good mix of youth and experience to improve on a disappointing season last year."

BYRON BAY RED DEVILS

Gains

Simon Kelly (year off), Clarence Kelly (Evans Head), Jared Dethierri (Tweed Seagulls), Ryan O'Connell (Murwillumbah).

Coaching

Eli Colby and Tobin Cupples will share the responsibilities after both players suffered broken ankles last season.

Prediction

The Red Devils return to first grade after only fielding reserve grade and under-18 sides last season.

"We won the grand final in 2008 and we've always had a winning culture at the club," president Damon McCarthy said.

"We're confident of fielding all three grades and excited to be back in the top grade."

CASINO COUGARS

Gains

Luke Scott, Scott Gibson, Shaun Locke (year off), George Clarke (Leeds Rhinos).

Losses

Bryce Hosie (returning home to New Zealand), Jacob Ngauamo (Northern United).

Coaching

Troy Johnstone will be at the helm again after his first season coaching at senior level last season.

Prediction

"Damien Benn, James Hammond and Todd Johnson have had a couple of year's experience in first-grade now and we expect big things from them," club stalwart Brad Birney said.

"We're also relying on a number of under-18s coming through with twins Sam and Jacob Lyons, Kurt Rutley, Brendan Macquire, Wayne Freeburn, Luke Watego and Mitch Cooke."

EVANS HEAD BOMBERS

Gains

Braydon Vickery (Tinga).

Losses

Drew Tebbutt, Brad Fletcher (Brisbane) Clarence Kelly (Byron Bay), Trevor Bolt, Paletasiala Ale (Sydney).

Coaching

Mick Davis and captain Tim Tregidgo will share the coaching responsibilities again after taking the Bombers to their first finals appearance last season.

Prediction

"We have a young side and hope guys like Aaron Scells and Eli Cook can fill the void," club manager Brad Mayes said.

"We had signed Don Dickson from Ballina but he appears set to move to Brisbane for work."

GRAFTON GHOSTS

Gains

Joel Moss (Lower Clarence), Tim Tilse, Dave Emmett, Liam Bland, Nat Sewell (year off).

Losses

Adam Elliot (year off).

Coaching

Multiple premiership-winning halfback Ryan Farrell takes over from Col Speed who has taken an assistant coaching job with the Mackay Cutters in the Queensland Cup.

Prediction

Speed led the team to back-to back premierships last season with the Ghosts' heavy favourites to take out the grand final for the third consecutive year in 2012.

"I have big shoes to fill and it should be an exciting year for the club," Farrell said.

"We have about five or six under-18s coming through and that will only add to our depth."

KYOGLE TURKEYS

Gains

None

Losses

Alex Farrell, Josh Foley (Cairns), Garry Roberts, Johnny Walker (Northern United).

Coaching

Cameron Mulchay returns to the club he last played for as an 18-year-old after stints at the Ipswich Jets in the Queensland Cup and the Warwick Cowboys.

Prediction

"We want to win enough games to sneak into the finals after just missing out last season," assistant coach Mark Doolan said.

"You need to win games early in the season otherwise it will come back to haunt you."

LOWER CLARENCE MAGPIES

Gains

Grant Brown, Jerry Byers (Northern United).

Losses

Joel Moss (Ghosts), Xavier Sullivan (retired), Todd Cameron (Bellingen), Tom Martin (Mackay), Dan Randall (Rockhampton).

Coaching

Grant Brown returns to the club that he kicked the winning field goal for and won a first grade grand final with in 2009.

He takes over from coaches Ricky Binge and Dallas Waters.

Prediction

"We didn't get things right last season and Grant seems to have them motivated," club president Donald Johnson said.

"We're still rebuilding after being left in debt at the end of the 2009 season and we'll rely heavily on our juniors."

MARIST BROTHERS RAMS

Gains

Niko Vakararawa (two years off), Michael Assim (former Rams junior and front-rower from Coogee).

Losses

Luke Baker (Penrith Panthers), Blake Carter (Canterbury Bulldogs), Will Bugden (Parramatta Eels Toyota Cup).

Coaching

Premiership-winning hooker Adam Mayes returns to the club after three years as an assistant at Evans Head.

Prediction

"It's the club's 100th year and we're keen for some success," Mayes said.

"The boys lost some close games last year and were unlucky not to make the semi-finals.

"We want to have a good start and build towards our big anniversary game against Ballina on the June long weekend."

MULLUMBIMBY GIANTS

Gains

None.

Losses

Matt Mulchay (Wests Tigers), Bill Pyke (Sydney).

Coaching

The Giants will have former Australian and Manly fullback Graham Eadie take over from Damon Scott.

Prediction

"We don't pay players and rely on our junior talent coming through," club president Ken Barnham said.

"We'll start the season strong like last year and just hope that injuries don't derail us again.

"Our supporter base is a big asset and Eden Syme will be one to watch from our under-18s."

MURWILLUMBAH MUSTANGS

Gains

Tim James (Bilambil Jets), Steve Kirkham (Cudgen).

Losses

Ryan O'Connell (Byron Bay), Corey Maher, Steve Parsons (retirement).

Coaching

Troy McLean is at the helm again with star players Luke Covell and Damian Quinn back on deck.

Prediction

"We have a big pack again and we're probably a bit light on out wide," club president Nigel Lofts said.

"If we can sign another quality centre we'll be happy but Grafton Ghosts will be the team to beat."

NORTHERN UNITED DIRAWONGS

Gains

Jake Ngauamo (Casino) Jake Walker (Marist Brothers), Joel Roberts (Ballina), Garry Roberts, Johnny Walker, Jeremy Collins (Kyogle), Wilo James, Steve Kelly (Evans Head), Tennyson Strong (Armidale), Dwayne Duke (Grafton Rugby), Tim Green (Tweed Seagulls), Leonard Hickling (year off).

Losses

Brenton Cochrane (Wee Waa), Fred Waters (Lake Macquarie), Grant Brown, Jerry Byers (Lower Clarence), Chris Cubby (Newcastle).

Coaching

Roy Bell and Willie Hammond will share the captain-coaching responsibilities with Chris Binge to remain on as club manager.

Prediction

"We've had 55 players at training and our goal is to make the grand final after falling one try short in the last two seasons," club secretary Grantley Creighton said.

"We're the only team in the competition to finish in the top three for the past three seasons.

"We've added a bit of size to the forward pack and if we can cut a few errors out, we'll be hard to beat."

Topics:  nrrrl



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