Raiders reveal latest weapon
By BOB ANTHONY
WHEN it comes to playing rugby league on the Tweed, Robert Kelly has plenty of experience.
The Tweed Coast Raiders back, who started his playing days with Cudgen, has also played with South Tweed, but has now found a new home with the Raiders' A-grade side.
Tomorrow, the Raiders play their first 'local' match against the Murwillumbah Mustangs at Stan Sercombe Oval, and Kelly is under no illusions that the game will be hard and fast.
However he isn't daunted by the prospect of taking on one of the more fancied sides in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition and said there was plenty of enthusiasm in the Tweed Coast camp.
"I know plenty of the players in the Mustangs side and know that they will be hard to beat at home, but we are quietly confident of putting in a strong show," Kelly said.
"There are a lot of young blokes in our side and they are keen and enthusiastic about the match."
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"We have had really good numbers to training with about 50 turning up for both grades on Thursday.
"That means there's plenty of competition for position, so that keeps us all on our toes."
Kelly said there was good feeling both in the club and in the local community with the club generating plenty of interest.
In its first encounter in the NRRRL, the Raiders came up against Kyogle at Kyogle and despite being on the wrong end of the penalty count, gave a spirited performance going down 30-18.
When it came to setting team goals, Kelly said he and his teammates first and foremost wanted to be competitive on the field and then aim for a possible semi-final berth.
He said under the guidance of captain/coach Terry Rapana, the team was coming together more each week and was improving with every run.
"We have some talented young blokes like Dane Herron at fullback. Our halves Nathan Gill and Nathan Jordan, hooker Kane Stannard and former South Tweed player lock Phil Smallwood have really impressed," Kelly said.
But standing in their way will be a determined Murwillumbah Mustangs outfit, eager to gettheir NRRRL campaign back on track after their loss to Lower Clarence at home last week.
Coach Con Theodossiou said the clash with the Raiders should be a tough one, as many of the Tweed Coast players were familiar to Murwillumbah players.
He has made a few changes to his own team this week, bringing players up from reserve grade, saying "It's hard to ignore players when they had such a convincing win last week."
Elevated to the senior side is winger Matt Brown and prop Steve Kirkham. Theodossiou has also shuffled his back line, with Brad Warren, who scored two tries last week, moving to the centres and Gary Dowling going to five-eight.
The focus at training this week had been on ball control in the opposition 30m zone, and the Mustangs' defence around the ruck.
Theodossiou said it was important to secure a win in the opening rounds of the competition, especially in A-grade as the Mustangs then face a disjointed draw, with an Easter break before hosting South Grafton, which does not have an A-grade side) and then having a bye.
"My A-grade players will have a four-week break and that makes it very difficult to build any type of continuity in their play," Theodossiou said.
The reserve grade game will kick off at Murwillumbah at 1.30pm with the A-grade to follow.