By ADAM WRATTEN
MURWILLUMBAH'S title aspirations face a stern test in coming weeks with the Mustangs taking on the competition's benchmark southern teams in the next three rounds.
The test starts tomorrow against Lismore's Marist Brothers in what promises to be a bruising encounter in front of a big crowd at Stan Sercombe Oval.
Although Tweed teams have dominated their southern counterparts so far in this year's inaugural Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition, none have yet played Marist Brothers, South Grafton or Ballina.
Tomorrow's encounter should provide plenty of pointers as to how the comp will shape up.
"Their (Marist Brothers') form has been a bit up and down recently," Mustangs coach Con Theodossiou said yesterday.
"But, I still regard them as the benchmark from the Group 1 teams. They have always been strong in that competition.
"They play a structured game and feed off their opponents' mistakes."
While he is looking for big games across the park, Theodossiou said halfback Ben White was crucial to his side's chances.
"He's been one of our better players," Theodossiou said. "He's a pretty experienced player with a level head who brings a lot of variety to our game.
"He knows how to tough it out in those games when the going gets tough."
After Marist Brothers, the Mustangs take on Ballina at home, then South Grafton away.
"Over the next three weeks we should find out more about how we are going to compete against these (southern) teams," he said.
"But, there's no need for us to peak yet.
"We are still trying different things at training to vary things."
Tomorrow's game kicks off at 3pm.
MURWILLUMBAH: Shannon Murphy, Ryan Murphy, Ricky Lang, Brad Wan, Jason Willis, Matt Harley, Ben White, Steve Kirkham, Jarrod Brown, Lyndon Murphy, Jarrod Flick, Glenn Weaver, Lionel Foster. Interchange: Robert Reid.