Rugby's player magnet at Byron Bay
THE Byron Bay backline is starting to take shape with the return of English winger James Oakley in Far North Coast rugby union.
Oakley has been back a few weeks now in his second stint at the club, having played in the unsuccessful 2015 and 2016 grand final teams.
They will be even stronger in a month when captain Jascha Saeck returns from a broken cheekbone with the mercurial Harvey Bell now covering fullback.
Byron Bay is aiming for back-to-back wins when it takes on the Casino Bulls at the Byron Recreation Ground today.
"It's a great player magnet Byron Bay and James has slotted straight back in,” coach Jeff Watt said.
"He's a wiry one, we had a few nasty fitness drills at training this week and he was the one leading the way.
"Casino took the game to us last time and we only sealed it at the end.
"If we take them lightly or don't go out switched on they're a side that could easily pull our pants down.”
Centre Joel Stocks and James Bulmer have switched positions while flanker Michael Armstrong will give them extra punch in the forwards.
No8 Dru Baggaley has been a handful this season and will be hard to stop if his side gets on the front foot early.
"I think James might be better suited to centre, he has a good step and we could use his pace more,” Watt said.
"Dru has been great, he's really fit and he sets the tone with the way he plays.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing how our front-rower Charles Woollard goes this week.
"He's really good on his feet and has found some form so I'm sure he's keen for another good performance here.”
The Bulls are back from a bye and have enough firepower out wide if front-rower Blake Birmingham can lead his forwards against a bigger pack.
Kick-off is 3.15pm.
In other games:
Bangalow plays the Lennox Head Trojans at Schultz Oval, Bangalow.
Casuarina Beach hosts Wollongbar-Alstonville.
Southern Cross University will play its home game against Ballina at Alby Lofts Oval, Brunswick Heads.
The Gold Rats have Mullumbimby as its reserve grade this season and have now taken two games to the Mooshiners' home field.
Byron Bay: 1 Matthew Sloyan, 2 Josh Smith, 3 Charles Woollard, 4 Cash Chapman, 5 Dan Burnham, 6 Michael Armstrong, 7 Bedwyr Davies, 8 Dru Baggaley, 9 Blake Whittakar, 10 Joel Stocks, 11 James Oakley, 12 James Bulmer, 13 Jordan Foster, 14 Ben Darlet, 15 Harvey Bell. Coach: Jeff Watt.
Casino: 1 Blake Birmingham (c), 2 Lucas Bowden, 3 Scott Kenny, 4 Shawn Gill, 5 Callum McClennan, 6 Marcus Cusack, 7 Elliott Birmingham, 8 Josh Fuller, 9 Ben Collison, 10 Harrison Cusack, 11 Kevin Birney, 12 Glen Pollard, 13 Rusiate Loganimasi, 14 Korey Bennett, 15 Saimoni Rokowaqa. Coach: Doug Murray.
Referee: Peter Campbell.
Bangalow: 1 Dan Hill, 2 Sam Rawsthorne, 3 Simeli Miranalasekula, 4 Jock Craigie, 5 Caleb Burke, 6 John Turagabeci, 7 Omar Sella, 8 Dan Rollinson (c), 9 Tim Cohen, 10 Tom Slater, 11 Chris Bleakley, 12 Ryan Duffy, 13 Jed Erickson, 14 Daniel Proudman, 15 Vincent Young. Coach: Marty Clapp.
Lennox Head: 1 Jacob Creagh, 2 John Young, 3 Angus Langfield, 4 Curtis Miles, 5 Mackenzie Winchester, 6 Sam Powell (c), 7 Luke Mounic, 8 Jono Huddy, 9 Abe Goldsmith, 10 Hugo Marks, 11 Jackson Lang, 12 Jack Tyndall, 13 Martin McNamara, 14 Tasman De Groot, 15 Paul Crozier. Coach: Jason McCombie.
Referee: Allan Thomas.
Casuarina Beach: 1 Dan Heritage, 2 Barney Waerea, 3 Robert Beacroft, 4 Chris Farrell, 5 Arthur Blin, 6 Geoff Wallis, 7 James McMahon, 8 Timoci Rokosuka, 9 Matt Burgess, 10 Vitori Buatava, 11 Webb Lillis, 12 Nathan Croft, 13 Jamie Laidlaw, 14 Jared de Thierry, 15 Kai George. Coach: Adam Leach.
Wollongbar-Alstonville: 1 Brandan Whitney, 2 Bill Johnston, 3 Benji Tiatia, 4 Matt Scott (c), 5 Vaughan Sandral, 6 Nick Pennisi, 7 Hamish Mould, 8 Austin Markwort, 9 Louis Hollman, 10 Ben Damen (c), 11 Angus Thearle, 12 Ben Johnston, 13 Matt Nean, 14 James Vidler, 15 Sam Kerry. Coach: Ern Sandral.
Referee: Graham Cook.
Southern Cross University: 1 Mitchell Bird, 2 Pat Kelly, 3 Sam Condon, 4 Riley Spencer, 5 Brad Brown, 6 Jack Quigley, 7 Ben Smith, 8 Kirk Taylor-Brown, 9 Matt Anderson, 10 Will Hawkins, 11 Jake Henry, 12 Matt McMullen, 13 Aaron Ashley, 14 Pat Wilton, 15 Michael McMullen. Coach: Josh Condon.
Ballina: 1 Isaac Pratten, 2 Brett Johnston, 3 Callam Turner, 4 Ryan Hamilton, 5 Sam Pearce, 6 Nick Brydon, 7 Andrew Burke (c), 8 Stan Lolohea, 9 Nick Watson, 10 Grant Knight, 11 Terry Ferguson, 12 Anthony Lolohea, 13 Joel Staude, 14 Joel Noble, 15 Tom Watson. Coach: Chris Hickey.
Referee: Ian Hooper.