Rebels, Magpies take on new looks for 2006
By TONY WHITE
SOUTH Grafton Rebels and Lower Clarence Magpies will field new-look sides when they clash in a Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League trial match at McKittrick Park, South Grafton, today.
The Rebels, under new administration this season, have only three first graders in the squad from last year ? captain-coach Ray Mercy, Kevin Blanch and Eddie De Bono.
Mark and Adam Shiels are back with the Rebels and former Under-18 players Ben Woods and Dion Palmer have made their way into first grade.
The off season turmoil and change in the player payment structure appears to have forced sweeping changes at the club. President Janita Cooper said the club had 20 senior players signed, but she remained hopeful of numbers increasing.
The Magpies, under new captain-coach Jason 'China' Wilkinson, who takes over from Jason Hebbard, have lost at least seven prominent players from last year's first grade team including Chris Brophy, Brett Smidt, Luke Mapperson, Gavin Galvin, Terry Power and Darren Blackett.
The club has concentrated on attracting and fostering local talent.
Following blooding in firsts last year, the likes of Under-18 players Ryan Binge, Daniel Battersby, Ben McDonald and Grant Brown ? when he returns from suspension for the first game of the season on April 2 ? will add youth and skill to the side.
Nathan Kelly has joined the Magpies and Daine Laurie is back.
Magpies president Gary Anderson said new signing, hooker Barry Ah-See, would be a valuable addition to the club.
The Under-18 match kicks off at 4pm and firsts around 5.15pm.
Grafton Ghosts tackle Casino RSM at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino, today.
The Ghosts have considerably bolstered their numbers under new captain-coach Matt Michael and will use the trial as a means of trying new combinations.
Officials report the Ghosts have trained strongly and will be keen to kick start 2006 with a win.