A GROWING group of young players have given Ballina an early boost in Far North Coast rugby union this season.
The Seahorses had a 24-16 win over Wollongbar-Alstonville last weekend and will host Lennox Head in the local derby on Saturday at Quays Reserve, Ballina.
It promises to be a hard-fought contest with Lennox Head accounting for Casuarina 38-10 in its first game of the season.
"We have a couple of young guys who were great on debut," Ballina coach Karl Lupton said.
"Lachlan Johnson was really impressive in the centres and Braith Keirle really lifted the boys when he came on.
"He has plenty of energy and has always been a great junior player.
"To have a couple of young guys come in and both score tries on debut is really pleasing for them.
"Hopefully we can build a bit of match fitness because it hasn't been much of an off-season in terms of trial games and wet weather.
"It will be a good chance against Lennox Head to see where we're at."
Second-rowers Kye Cribb and Jakob O'Connor have come through the junior ranks along with imposing front-rower Sam Pearce.
Ballina and Lennox Head will both play in specially designed socks on Saturday with a fundraiser set up for mental health organisation Batyr.
The Trojans won the grand final last year and have a handful of new recruits this season.
Front-rower Santi Liparini and flanker Jack Todhunter have been added to the forward pack while winger Lachie Creagh has re-joined the backline.
In other games this weekend, a new-look Bangalow side will host Casino at Schultz Oval.
The Rebels have picked up two-time Far North Coast Best and Fairest player Ed McGrath from Grafton.
New five-eighth Troy Doughy has taken on the captaincy with the Bangalow backline producing plenty of points in its first-up win over Lismore.
For the Bulls, it will be the first game in charge for new coaches Marty Clapp and Mark Flynn after they had a bye in the first week.
Elsewhere, Casuarina host Wollongbar-Alstonville.
The Pioneers look set to be missing five-eighth Ben Damen with a thumb injury.