Ben Crawford, who will lead the Ballina Seagulls against Grafton Ghosts tomorrow.
Ben Crawford, who will lead the Ballina Seagulls against Grafton Ghosts tomorrow.

Ballina to take on Ghosts

A DEPLETED Ballina will travel to Grafton to take on the rampaging Ghosts in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League tomorrow.

There is no Andrew Battese, no Damian Sironen, no Ed Killingbeck and no Dan Gibson.

Ben Crawford, 22, will lead the side in what is fast becoming the NRRRL’s mission impossible, but he says that rather than being crippled by the omission of a host of top-liners, the club is thriving on the enthusiasm of a talented crop of youngsters.

Four Seagulls – Abe Crawford, Jason Clarke, Matt Nean and Mitch Bailey – who were part of last year’s premiership-winning Under-18s have been called up.

Nean has just returned from a stint in the Brisbane Broncos’ development system and captain Crawford reports that the Seagulls are abuzz.

“The young guys just bring a lot of enthusiasm – a fresh outlook,” Crawford said.

But he knows that enthusiasm won’t be enough to get the cookies against a Ghosts side that ran riot over the Seagulls in the trials.

“They have class across the paddock,” Crawford said.

“Everyone worries about Danny Wicks but there are 12 other top players who can cut you to bits just as quick.”

The undefeated Ghosts average 52 points a game and Crawford is keen to make sure his club doesn’t contribute to that statistic.

“The first thing we need to do is hang on to the ball and make our tackles,” he said.

“That will put us is in the game, then it will be up to us to see if we can win it from there.”

In other NRRRL matches tomorrow:

Second-placed Marist Brothers will send a weakened team west to take on Casino.

Bookends Cameron Paine and Simon Andrews won’t be on hand to eat up the metres, while halfback Joel McCaffery and strike centre Dylan Coleman will also be missed.

Coach David Krause is wary of an ambush.

“It’s a danger game for us,” he said.

“Casino is always a tough trip.”

The Cougars have named an unchanged line-up with Ben Birney still a week away from returning and Chris McGrath at least that.

Northern United coach Chris Binge is hopeful he has found the man to complete his halves puzzle ahead of hosting Grafton Rhinos.

Jordan Green starred on debut in the win over his junior club, Kyogle, and retains the hooking role, with Willie Hammond and Evan Hickling the halves.

Young gun Branston Brewer-Charles will play his first game in the top grade for 2010, starting at lock.

“He is a guy that we will be looking too, not only towards the end of this season, but in the future,” Binge said.

Robbie Wark returns to action for Mullumbimby’s crucial clash with Cudgen at Ned Byrne Oval, Kingscliff.

The Giants opened the season with an undefeated month but have since lost four in a row and are on the verge of losing touch with the top half of the competition.

In ninth spot with seven points, the Giants are only one-and-a-half wins out of the top five, but a loss here could see a three-point gap open between the top half and the bottom half.

Cudgen are fourth with seven wins from nine starts and have been beaten only by the Ghosts and Rhinos.

Kyogle hosts Murwillumbah and the Turkeys are unchanged as they search desperately for their second win.

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