Story & photo John Campbell
Trailing the Ballina Seagulls by 28–10 in Sunday’s NRRRL clash at Les Donnelly Field, with fifteen minutes left on the clock, the Mullumbimby Giants had a scrum feed on halfway.
Instead of standing a prop at five-eighth and having him make a mindless barge for a three-metre gain, as is so common now in the professional ranks, the Giants’ number six, Louie Earl, reefed the pill downfield for his full-back, Rhys Carruth, to chase.
Carruth beat his opposite number in a thrilling race to the line, only to have the ref determine that he had lost control of the greasy ball in diving for the try.
It was a bold and brilliantly executed play, deserving of a four-pointer, and the boys were rewarded shortly after when club stalwart Jake ‘Gyllenhaal’ Wood plunged over from dummy half.
Darcy Earl’s conversion made it 28–16 and a faint hope still flickered in the hearts of the blue-and-gold faction of a rain-strafed crowd that the home side’s second-half resurgence might yet succeed in pinching the two competition points from the reigning premiers. But it was that sort of game – the Giants were always in it, but never quite in it to the degree that you could be confident that they would win.
The final score of 40–16, however, was a crude injustice.
Neither side made a particularly impressive start. Both were guilty of poor ball control and shonky last tackle options but, with a little help from the whistleblower, it was Ballina who gained the ascendency in the battle for field position.
Mullum’s defence was committed and well-organised – time and again they managed to turn up at the point of attack – but eventually, after a long run by the Seagulls’ hooker, weight of possession told and the visitors grabbed the lead.
The Giants, so willing until this moment, then clocked-off mentally to let in three more tries in quick succession. Retiring to the sheds trailing 22–0 didn’t seem right, but that’s the price you pay for dropping your guard against a battle-hardened opponent.
Diehards fled the bleachers as wicked weather lashed the ground, but the resumption of play brought a welter of activity and a sunnier outlook for Mullum.
Hooker Aaron Walker’s try, converted by Mister Darcy, made it 22–6, Ballina scored again for 28–6 and then Josh ‘il Duce’ Castellano smashed his way through Ballina’s frontline defence to rack up a try that was, if nothing else, justice done for the effort that the big bloke put in all afternoon.
Coach Simon ‘Roger’ Moore has an unstinting ally in his fellow prop, who was a standout in a pack of forwards that refused to take a backward step against their more lauded adversaries.
The Giants have a tendency to give away penalties at critical times and they are unable to remain calm when calmness is called for, but they’re full of what you like to see in a footy team – spirit.
With it, and a bit more attention to detail, the play-offs are not beyond them.