Lismore City News
Saturday, 2 December 2023

2022 shapes as a make or break season for former NRL players on the Northern Rivers

Mitchell Craig
Updated March 29 2022 - 3:25pm, first published 3:05pm
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Former NRL players Todd Carney and Luke Douglas will play key roles in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League this season.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Former NRL players Todd Carney and Luke Douglas will play key roles in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League this season.

FORMER NRL players Todd Carney and Luke Douglas have a big job ahead of them in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League this season.

Carney is desperate to get an inconsistent side into the finals for the first time since 2014 while Douglas will need to lift a struggling club off the bottom of the ladder.

The time appears to be now for Carney and his Byron Bay Red Devils who have retained most of its side from last year and also welcomed back some club juniors.

Carney, a former Dally M medal winner, will take charge as the Red Devils captain-coach for a fourth straight year.

He was originally going finish up at the club last season but is determined to play finals and a win a premiership before he moves on.

Injuries and the Queensland border closure due to COVID-19 hampered his efforts over the past two years.

Meanwhile, Douglas has made a late call to put the boots on after moving home to help coach Lower Clarence this season.

Douglas, 35, played 263 NRL games at Cronulla and the Gold Coast Titans before another three seasons with St Helens in the English Super League.

He already has NRRRL experience having captain-coached Ballina to a premiership in 2020 and before the season was cancelled during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.

He moved back to Yamba this year to work with Clarence Valley Council and will play for the Magpies for the first time since 2004.

Taking the reins as captain-coach while see current mentor Carl Press move into a director of coaching role with a focus on developing club juniors while Douglas is at the helm.

Meanwhile, Marist Brothers has enlisted Will Bugden to coach the Rams this season.

Injuries cut short his career in the Queensland Cup and he returns to his junior club where he made his first grade debut as a 16-year-old in 2011.

Brothers will be strong again this season with seven of its players currently in the Northern Rivers Titans representative team.

They have recruited Casino front-rower Nick Morrissey who will bolster an already strong forward pack.

Northern United has also retained coach Chris Binge for a second straight year.

He took the club to a grand final appearance in its first year in the competition in 2009.

Both teams will play trial games away from home after the flood damage to the fields around Lismore.

United will host a trial game against the Casino Cougars at Clifford Park, Goonellabah next Saturday.

Mitchell Craig

Mitchell Craig

Senior journalist

Australian Community Media journalist with over 10 years' experience in providing quality news and sport stories.