Gentlemen coach Phil Lees
Gentlemen coach Phil Lees Blainey Woodham

Gentlemen set to rumble

THE fruits of the Gentlemen of Murwillumbah's – or the Bananas as they are more affectionately known – first official off-season will be on show at Brothers Leagues Ground this afternoon.

And if the talk around town is accurate, it is looking like a bumper crop that will tackle Byron Bay in the club's opening trial game.

With restricted resources and little time to recruit and work with his stocks, retired Wallaby Peter Crittle last year led the Gentlemen to a respectable sixth place in their Village Comp debut.

Hence expectations are high the Tweed's lone Far North Coast Rugby Union representative can push for a finals berth in 2011.

A feared enforcer and leader on the field throughout last year's campaign, new coach Phil Lees will need to adopt the same attitude from the sidelines if he is to fill Crittle's gigantic shoes.

Particularly after the club's stellar recruitment drive.

“The trial game is an opportunity for us to see how a bunch of new players fit in with our style of play, running, attacking rugby,” Lees said.

While tried and tested forwards Brendan Rich, Nigel Beard and Ross Murray will continue to provide a solid platform in the engine room for Lees, several new signings promise to bolster the Murwillumbah pack.

Veteran Frankie Abekawa and exciting young prospect Nick Reeves are two such talents, but it is the Arnold brothers, Rory and Richard, who promise to become huge fan favourites.

The six-foot nine-inch (206cm) brothers will be hard to miss and Lees hopes their bulk and mobility will provide the X-factor lacking last season.

In the backline it is former Byron Bay stalwart Matt Alexander who's expected to add a little spark when he partners 2010 back of the year Brett Underwood in the Bananas halves.

Alexander notched more than a century of appearances for his old club and his experience is also expected to have great impact on the fledgling backline.

“We have spent the last six weeks working on our defensive structures and handling skills,” Lees said.

“Competition is strong amongst the players and I aim to use the match as an opportunity to give them all a run."

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