Magpies confident of roping the Mustangs
By TONY WHITE
NEW Lower Clarence captain-coach Jason Wilkinson is quietly confident the Magpies can kick off the 2006 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League season with a win against Murwillumbah tomorrow.
The Magpies and Mustangs match up at Stan Sercombe Oval, Murwillumbah, should provide an early guide to the team's respective strengths.
Lower will field a new look team from last season with plenty of new players, several from South Grafton, mixed with a number of last year's most talented Under-18 players.
Halfback Wilkinson, who took over following the departure of Jason Hebbard, has been delighted with the Magpies progress thus far.
"I was more than happy with our trial against Ballina and we've trained well for the past two weeks," he said.
"Murwillumbah were right up there last year and Sunday should give us a good guide how we're shaping.
"This year the numbers are better and provided we don't get too many injuries, I'm looking at a positive season."
Wilkinson singled out former Under-18 players, prop Ryan Binge and second rower Grant Brown, as stars in the making.
"Ryan had a try out with the Northern Rivers team and his trial and training form has been outstanding," Wilkinson said.
"He's playing the house down and got everything we need.
"Grant Brown had a taste of first grade last year and he's developed enormously."
Wilkinson said the Magpies strength would be in the big forward pack.
New recruits Dane Laurie and hooker Barry Ah-see have fitted in well and Under-18 player from last season Daniel Battersby has been slotted into lock.
"We've got a pack of fit young fellas and our power game will be through our forwards," Wilkinson said.
"The backs are more experienced with the likes of Ken Mercy giving strong leadership."
LOWER CLARENCE: Fullback, Dave Purcell; wingers, Liam Jones, Ben McDonald; centres, Ken Mercy, Mark Laurie; five-eighth, Aaron Murray; halfback, Jason Wilkinson; props, Dane Laurie, Ryan Binge; hooker, Barry Ah-see; second-row, Tom Freebody, Grant Brown; lock, Daniel Battersby. Coach: Jason Wilkinson.
MURWILLUMBAH: Fullback Shannon Murphy; wingers, Ryan Murphy, Richard Arrowsmith; centres, Jason Willis, Gary Dowling; five-eighth Matt Harley (c); halfback Ben White; lock Lionel Foster; second rows Matt Slattery, Andrew Pollard; props Matt Chadburn, Jarred Flick; hooker Jarrod Brown. Reserve Ben Blacklock.