Redmen battling injury problems
By DAVE MORRISON
IT will be an injury weakened Mighty River Redmen who seek to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they host their nemesis from last year's grand final, the Ballina Seahorses, at South Grafton today.
Injuries and work commitments have resulted in some significant changes to the side that held off the Yamba Buccaneers at their last outing, with prop Dan Hayne, centres Aaron Taylor and Jon Chevalley, and fullback Justin Spurway all on the sidelines as Grafton look to repel a strong challenge from a Ballina outfit now well on track after a sluggish start to their title defence.
However, coach Gary Powell is not concerned, believing the disruption is just part and parcel of the sport and he has the luxury of having ready made replacements with a wealth of first grade experience to call on.
Tony White comes in at prop, while last year's centre pairing, Paul Allen and Scott Lloyd will be reunited in the top grade, former Robb College, Armidale utility Andrew Roseby slots in at fullback.
Ballina will provide a stern test for the Redmen.
After a poor start to the season in which they lost four of their first five games, the Seahorses have strung together convincing wins over Tweed, University and last week, Casino, their run coinciding with most of last year's premiership winning side being back on deck.
In form, despite still sitting a couple of points outside of the top four, they are still the team to beat this year and seem to be getting into gear.
Recent Grafton Ballina games have been crackers, high scoring and hard.
The Seahorses won the 2005 grand final 46-32, while Grafton reversed that result in the opening game of this season at Ballina with an equally thrilling 37-27 result.
With both sides playing positive, attacking rugby, another high scoring encounter is on the cards given a dry track.
Both sides play a similar style and look to be well balanced and evenly matched across the paddock.
It may well be a matter of who can take their chances that will be decisive.
A big day of rugby beckons, with all three grades on show, the third grade clash kicking off proceedings at 12.30pm with the main fare at 3pm.
GRAFTON FIRST GRADE: Tony White, Gary Powell, Scott Forwell, Jono Speechley, Matt Runge, Tim Landrigan, Paul Cameron, Rob Brown, Brett Graham, Jason Landrigan, Shane Denshire, Paul Allen, Scott Lloyd, Tom Gerrard, Andrew Roseby.