Birds of prey to battle it out
THE last time Lower Clarence and Ballina clashed the Magpies came away with the points.
Playing in front of their home crowd the Magpies hung on for a nail-biting 34-28 victory.
The problem this time around is the Don Dickson-coached Seagulls will have the luxury of their own supporters egging them on from the Kingsford Smith Park grandstand.
Only one point separates the two teams on the NRRRL table and with their semi-final aspirations on the line both sides will be hell-bent on sliding up the ladder.
The Seagulls surprised all and sundry last week with a 26-16 win over Tweed Coast. And to make the victory more remarkable, apparently they did it after several players decided to give training a wide birth during the week.
Dickson admits his side’s win against the Raiders came from left field after going into the game as rank outsiders.
“Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise,” Dickson admits.
“But we did manage to complete 13 out of 17 sets which was a big improvement on previous weeks.”
The former Ghosts playmaker said his side was hoping to turn the tables against the Magpies tomorrow but added they would have to do it without boom forward Jason Clarke.
“Jason has been one of our best players this season but will miss the game through injury,” he said.
“Jason fractured his cheekbone and could have a lengthy spell on the sidelines.”
Dickson revealed stopping Lower’s go-forward will be the key if his side are two make it two wins on the trot.
“They have a big front-row in Xavier (Sullivan) and Ryan Binge,” he said.
“We did work on our markers at training to hopefully stop them gaining momentum.”
Once again the Magpies will be missing the services of punishing centre Dan Randall who has opted to run out in reserve grade.
The good news is Ryan Binge, who missed the round 3 clash with Ballina, will team-up with Sullivan in the front-row.
“Dan was injured against Murwillumbah a couple of weeks ago and will come back through reserve grade,” Magpies co-coach Ricky Binge told The Examiner on Friday.
“But it will be a bonus to have Ryan back who missed the previous game against Ballina.”
With Randall out, Binge and Dallas Waters have included former Rhinos utility player Oral Monaghan to fill the void.
“Oral needs a couple of runs under his belt but he is slowly getting better,” Binge said.
“We have a few players who need some match fitness. Anthony Hickling has only just come back but looks like settling into the halfback role.”
Binge added his side needed to compete for the entire 80-minutes which had been a concern throughout the season.
“We kept Marist Brothers scoreless in the first-half last week,” he said.
“But we fell away late in the game. We need to extend our defence into the second-half which is something we have targeted during the week.”