Lismore litmus test for Redmen
By DAVE MORRISON
A NEW-look Jacaranda Hotel Redmen face their litmus test against the best today when they tackle defending premiers, Lismore City, in the season opener at home.
A record opening game crowd is being tipped to witness the opening shots in another rugby season coinciding with the official opening of Grafton Rugby's new clubhouse.
Lismore have set the standard in the Far North Coast in recent seasons and hold the Club Champion tag to go with their top grade honour.
With four grades on show, the visitors will provide an ideal benchmark to see exactly where the Redmen sit, with a number of new faces across the grades.
For the Redmen's top side, they will enjoy the underdog tag, but will be quietly confident of a bold showing.
They have a very different look to last year, with seven new faces in the run-on side.
Based on their last trial game effort, the new combination looks to have the goods, defeating Mid North Coast premier, Coffs Harbour, last week.
Two premiers scalps in two weeks is the goal and would be a great way to start the season.
As in past years, the Redmen eight look very powerful, with the addition of Country player, David Hale, strengthening an already strong pack.
Grafton look to have more penetration in the backs than in the past, with the addition of Jon Chevalley, Matt Coombs, and Justin Spurway, who had a terrific game against Coffs, giving the Redmen more zing.
As usual with Lismore games, Grafton's ability to compete in the lineouts and at the tackle will probably be decisive.
Logic says that Lismore, based on previous seasons, must be firm favourites.
A confident, new look Redmen, in front of a big crowd and new clubhouse, have every incentive to perform.
Punters should take good odds on an upset.
In the seconds, defending premiers the Ray White Real Estate Redmen will take little from 2004, as they have just two from their winning squad running on today.
A totally revamped side looks strong however, but will have to perform to hold out Lismore
The Mark Bloomer Transport Thirds too have many new faces.
This is a wide open competition but the home ground advantage might be decisive.
Games commence at 12.30pm with the official proceedings at 3pm, followed by first grade at 3.20pm.