Axe to fall on New England
MID North Coast Axemen will attempt to get its Country championships campaign back on track today when it takes on New England in the Arthur Tonkin Shield clash at Coffs Harbour Advocate Rugby Union Park.
Another defeat by Far North Coast Dolphins in the Observer Trophy match in Grafton last weekend is believed to have stretched the Open grade’s losing streak to more than 30 matches.
But with match fitness so much better and pride in need of restoration, the Lions could be in for a rousing welcome to the coast.
The match is in preparation for the 2011 Country Championship weekend at Oakes Oval and Crozier Field in Lismore on March 26 and 27, the first time the senior Country event has been held in Far North Coast zone since the inception of the championships in 1951.
All nine Country zones will attend and will play matches in seniors and Colts over the two days to determine the winner of the Caldwell Cup, Richardson Shield, Colts Championship and Colts Plate.
The Axemen will be led into battle by last year’s successful Coffs Crushers coach Craig Landrigan and the ‘Coffs connection’ will be prominent in the forward pack with Nick and Matt Joyce in the front row and rep rugby specialist Vile Vatuvile one of the loose forwards.
The full side is: Nick Joyce, Daniel Hessing, Matt Joyce, Brad Henry, Lance Sutton, Aaron Hardaker, Vile Vatuvili, Craig Landrigan (captain), Andrew Paynter, Brendan Robins, Dwayne Fox, Kris Kent, Hugh Amos, Chris Tout and Dylan Hurley.
The side is coached by southern zone supremo, Ron McCarthy.
Much interest will be shown in outside centre Hugh Amos who has returned to home turf after playing first grade football with Brisbane Wests and taking a season in the United Kingdom.
Coffs club president Richard Officer promises a feast of rugby for the fans.
“Along with the main game, the Axemen under-20s made a great start to their campaign and easily beat Far North Coast in Grafton,” he advised.
“However, the New England 20s are one of the best teams in the state and will provide a real gauge of how good our young blokes are.”
A sign-on for Coffs Rugby players will run in conjunction with players interested in joining either first grade side (Breakers or Crushers), reserve grade or the under-19s welcome.
“The zone competition is only six weeks away so interested players can also come along to training on Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm,” Officer added.
Today’s games commence at 3pm with Colts, followed by the Opens around 4.30pm.
Meanwhile, future Olympic stars may be revealed as the Ella Rugby Sevens wrap up at BCU International Stadium.
With rugby sevens returning to the 2016 Games, players on show today are eligible for selection in a variety of squads which could eventually have them wearing a green and gold jumper and chasing a gold medal in five years from now.
The tournament is the marquee event for the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT), an organisation which is dedicated to promoting rugby union to young Aboriginal men and women and increasing participation in the sport.
Australian rugby royalty and tournament namesakes Gary, Mark and Glen Ella are attending with record $33,000 prize money.
Rugby legend Mark Ella said he’s impressed with the tournament’s continued growth and popularity.
“It is wonderful to see how in a few short years what began as a simple idea from Tom Evans and my brother Glen has grown into one of the premier Sevens contests in Australia,” Ella said.