THE one thing that could make this year's Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition even better is strong teams from Lower Clarence and Evans Head.

The competition is enjoying one of its most closely contested seasons in recent years, with eight of the 10 teams in contention for the finals.

"I think there's been an all-round improvement in our comp," NRRRL president Brian Rix said.

"I was able to get over to the Murwillumbah-Ballina game on Sunday and it was an absolute bottler.

"The comp is very good so far. Some of the teams that were on the fringes in recent years have come to the fore."

Last year's grand finalists Murwillumbah and Ballina have maintained their roles as NRRRL heavyweights and Byron Bay continues to impress.

The real improvement is from Casino and Kyogle, who have gone from being on the cusp of finals last year to second and third respectively after five rounds.

What has Rix most excited however is the success each club has had in relation to their geographical area.

"It's important to have successful clubs spaced out like that," Rix said.

"I've been involved in rugby league for 35 years and you see different areas come good for a few years at a time."

Rix said Lower Clarence's results were to be expected given the financial strain the club is under.

He does however expect the Magpies, who are currently anchored at the bottom of the ladder alongside Evans Head, to rise in years to come.

The Magpies have been boosted by the continuing success of their juniors, with the under-18s improving with every game.

The under-18 Magpies are sixth on the ladder, just two points outside the top four.

"Senior clubs have to back their junior clubs and they can build off them," Rix said.

"Grafton were successful for a long time, and still are, because of the strength of their juniors.

"The Northern Rivers as a whole is going very strong. The clubs are very happy with two full home-and-away rounds."



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