Star Mustangs forward Lynden Murphy returns to the pack against Kyogle today after missing last week’s victory over the Ghosts.
Star Mustangs forward Lynden Murphy returns to the pack against Kyogle today after missing last week’s victory over the Ghosts. Scott Powick

New recruits add power

THE coming of age of Caleb Howell as a first grader and the mid-season recruitment of gigantic prop Sam Ross is giving everyone involved in the Murwillumbah camp confidence that this will be the year of the Mustangs.

The Mustangs were already a formidable football team before Howell and Ross began to strut their remarkable talents in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League first grade competition.

Howell, who starred in under-18 competition last year, was given his chance in the top grade about seven weeks ago, following an injury to form centre Michael Keating, while Ross, a former Titans under-20 player, made an immediate impact for his new club off the bench in last week's impressive victory over premiers Grafton Ghosts.

Howell has grabbed his opportunity with both hands. His robust defence and running and ability to read the play has impressed all at the club.

The return of Keating, who played off the bench last week and will do so again against Kyogle this afternoon at Stan Sercombe Oval, is providing coach Troy McLean with a selection dilemma.

"Michael was playing great football before the injury and certainly knew how to find the try-line," McLean said.

"When he was ruled out for six weeks we turned to Caleb and he has done a tremendous job. He has really matured as a footballer and can now rightly be regarded as a first grader.

"Keato will play half a game in the reserves this week and then come off the bench in the firsts. Once he is back to peak fitness I will really have to sit down and work out how best he can serve the team.

"At the moment Damian Quinn has been playing in the centres but his versatility means that I can switch him to the forwards, which in turn places me in another dilemma, because all the forwards are playing superbly.

"Still, it is a situation I'm sure a lot of other coaches would love to be in."

McLean is right - the Mustangs "pigs" are in fine form and they set up the win over the Ghosts.

Each of them, including young Ross, took the "boo" of the Ghosts pack in the Mustangs' best display of the season.

"Sam's a big unit and his powerful bursts up the rucks and ability to get to his feet and play the ball quickly went a long way to us winning the game," McLean said.

Ross will warm the bench again but McLean is certain to give him plenty of game time to build on his fitness level.

Today's action against the Turkeys begins at 2pm with the under-18 fixture, with the first graders starting at 4.30pm.

Murwillumbah Mustangs: 1 Dylan smith 2 Michael Forrester 3 Damian Quinn 4 Caleb Howell 5 Troy Macarthur 6 Matt Goodfellow 7 Nathan Jordan (c) 8 Lynden Murphy 9 Sam Panting 10 Shane Kijt 11 Luke Covell 12 Tim James 13 Shawn Dorney 14 Lionel Foster 15 Sam Ross.



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