Bears expect big things from new half

FORMER Balmain and London Bronco backline star Brendan Magnus may be the missing link in the North Tamworth chain to a successful 2001 premiership season.

Magnus arrived in Tamworth yesterday to play his first game for the Bears in this afternoon’s Country Challenge Cup clash against Ourimbah.

A former teenage State beach sprint champion, he has been named at halfback for the Bears in the first game of the double header.

“He’s very quick,” North Tamworth captain-coach Matt Munro said.

“But his biggest asset maybe he doesn’t shut up. He’s a great organiser and has the speed too.

“Wayne Pearce had big wraps on him at Balmain but he had a lot of problems with his feet and arches. Then when he went to the Broncos he had a knee problem so he hasn’t had much luck.”

Munro is hoping the talented Magnus’s luck changes with the Bears and he provides that spark and organisation to help the Bears celebrate their 90th season in premiership style.

He’s also hoping Magnus can fit into the new-look Bears team without a training run.

Magnus is named at halfback to take over from departed number seven Warick Colley, who has returned home to Mudgee. Munro has Brett Walsh on standby for the halfback spot if Magnus is unavailable for today’s game.

Munro was able to train with 14 of today’s squad for the first time this week.

Only Magnus, Corey Underwood, Hamish Smith and Cameron Lewis were missing.

“We’re hoping Alf (Lewis) will be right if we get through the Ourimbah game,” he said.

Three teenagers – Jamie Trindall, Mark McCauley and Brock Hunter – have been named in the North squad.

“All three can expect to play plenty of minutes,” Munro said.

“They’re all very fit young blokes. I can’t see myself and Peter Moodie going the full 80 minutes.”

Norths play a Ourimbah side containing former Penrith first division star Shaun Laurie. A cousin of former Easts and State of Origin star Rocky Laurie, the talented fullback was the leading pointscorer in Group 18 last year when he scored an incredible 320 points for Byron Bay.

Former South Sydney player Charlie Lucas is the Ourimbah coach.

Ourimbah contains former Fijian internationals Sam Marayawa and Ben Bula.

Marayawa has played the last three World Cups for Fiji. He is a hard-running centre while Bula is a five-eighth who reprsented Fiji in the 1995 World Sevens.

Former NSW Country prop Grant Turner will lead the Ourimbah pack.