Story & photo John Campbell
On a perfect arvo for footy, and before an estimated 4,003 delighted patrons, the Devils’ victory was as comprehensive as it was unforeseen.
Having found themselves languishing near the bottom of the ladder, the glamour side of the comp (they hate to be thought of as such, but it is their cross to bear and they should defy the paradigm of false modesty and carry it with defiance) were beginning to look like embarrassing duds. The Brothers from Lismore, who had easily beaten the Bay in April, were simply torn apart by their hosts’ wrathful return to form. The final scoreline gave no indication of the gap in class between the two sides.
Lock Joseph Gordon put first points on the board when he crossed next to the upright and, in what was to become a procession, further tries were added by centre Bill ‘have you noticed how much weight I’ve lost’ Lowrie, a jinking, dummying Jared ‘Monsieur’ De Thierry, Michael ‘Twiggy’ Lambert and Ben ‘Noah’ Webster.
Aesthetically, it seemed an affront when Marist pulled one back against the run of play, so classically constructed and finely executed had been Byron’s performance – or, in footy parlance, they were all over ‘em and should have gone to the break with their opponents at naught. Their defence was enthusiastic and mob-handed and barely a ball was dropped nor a kick misplaced, with none making more headway in the opening exchanges than props Brett ‘Choc’ Harvey and, looking like his old rampaging self, Simon ‘Toothless’ Kelly.
A lead of 28-6 at half-time will always, at any level, promote the idea that the job has been done and the outcome assured – and reasonably so. The quality of Byron’s football had been lovely to watch, prompting the Old Bloke to wistfully remark ‘they remind me of my days with the Moree Boomerangs’ – which is high praise indeed. Nobody expected an overwhelmed Marist to reverse the trend and produce an unlikely comeback. What concerned us all was whether or not Byron would have the resolve within them to stifle any resistance.
Byron did bundy-off briefly, but had De Thierry brought his kicking boots the winning margin would have been appropriately enhanced by the three uncoverted tries that the Devils added – to Lowrie again (off a miracle inside pass from winger Scott ‘shaved legs’ Stapleton), Kelly and Webber.
Byron Bay has been accused by its detractors of lacking heart, of not having the steel to compete with the heavyweights when the going gets tough. Coach Nathan Cross will know that, apart from knocking off the premiers in the first round, they have done little to bury such talk.
Next week’s trip to Ballina looms as a watershed. It marks the halfway point of the minor premiership. If the Devils are to realise their potential they will need to turn up as Dr Jekyll, not their too often seen Mr Hyde.