Magpies announce five key signings

By TONY WHITE

THE Lower Clarence Magpies have announced five major signings and confirmed coaches for the 2006 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League season.

Flying winger Dave Purcell and experienced centre Ken Mercy are returning to the Magpies after playing for South Grafton Rebels last season.

And three 'imports' from last year, artful half-five-eighth Jason 'China' Wilkinson, fullback Aaron Murray and tough prop Luke Mapperson have also signed again.

The Magpies are also understood to be negotiating with another high profile player with NRL experience.

However, the Magpies have lost centre Darren Blackett and utility back, Gavin Galvin.

Jason Hebbard will captain-coach the first grade side for his second term, Brad Shannon will coach reserve grade and Tony Wiseman the Under-18s.

Club president Gary Anderson said an Under-18 co-coach will be announced shortly.

Anderson said several of last year's talented Under-18 team that made the final five would be considered for selection in first grade this season.

"We have an abundance of young talent from the Under-18 side and fortunately we haven't lost them to other clubs, university or work outside the area," Anderson said.

"The likes of Daniel Battersby, Ryan Binge, Grant Brown, Troy Harding and Daniel Austin will be great assets for the club."

Gifted centre Des Teale, who switched from the Grafton Ghosts to the Magpies last season, recently underwent a knee operation and is yet to determine his future.

Official training commences at Wherret Park tomorrow evening at 5.45pm for all grades.

Anderson said numbers at pre season training had been good with a core of around 17 players, mostly seniors, and up to 30 attending.

"Anyone interested in playing for the Magpies this season are welcome to come along to training," Anderson said.

"For the rest of the season official training will be on Tuesday and Thursday evenings."



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