Titans junior ready for spooky first grade debut
RUGBY LEAGUE: Injuries to key personnel across the Grafton Ghosts' first grade side has opened the door for a crop of fresh faces to play in their Group 2 third-round clash against Macksville Sea Eagles.
Woolgoolga recruits Luke Collison and Michael Curnow will make their run-on side debut while enigmatic junior Ben Liyou is set to make the giant leap from under-18s.
Liyou has been a revelation in the Ghosts' junior ranks in recent seasons and has been on the radar of NRL club Gold Coast Titans for years.
The 16-year-old was named Gold Coast Titans Sportsperson of the Year in 2017 and signed a two-year developmental deal with the club.
But despite the hefty expectations on his shoulders, Liyou remains a humble player, devoting time on the weekends to refereeing junior league.
One man who has worked closely with the emergent forward in the past few years is the Ghosts' U18s coach Shaun Davison. He said Liyou was primed for a top-level debut.
"To have Ben making his first grade debut is a very special moment for me,” Davison said. "I have worked with him through under-15s, under-16s and now U18s and he is fully deserving of the step up.
"He is only a young bloke but he has a very mature head on his shoulders. If he can handle the physicality of first grade then I think there is no issue.”
Rumours from the Ghosts' preseason training suggest Liyou won't have any trouble with the physicality after he gave rampaging lock Ben McLennan an accidental black eye in a contact drill.
Liyou will line up at left centre to replace Dylan Collett and is the latest in a long line of Ghosts juniors that have been fostered for first grade - and according to Davison, he won't be the last in 2018.
"Benny is a leader. You always hear the cliche of leading with your actions, that is Benny through and through,” he said. "But he is not alone. I think there is about five blokes in the U18s team that I have spoken to Wicksy about.”
It is an injury crisis at the Ghosts, with Danny Wicks, Brett Wicks, Dylan Collett, Mitch Gorman and Blake Winmill all missing in action.
Joel Moss is also still out on holiday in Hawaii.
GAME DAY: Macksville Sea Eagles v Grafton Ghosts at Allen Gillett Oval, tomorrow. First grade kicks off 2.30pm.