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May 19, 2021

Downhill slide continues for lacklustre Red Devils

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Byron’s rugged second-rower Brett ‘Choc’ Harvey takes it up as winger Duane Cahill rehearses his part for ‘Zombieland 2’ at Red Devil Park on Sunday. For the home side, it was the day of the living dead.

John Campbell

The only good thing that can be said about Byron Bay’s drubbing at the hands of Northern United on Sunday is that we were at least able to endure it without being constantly badgered by that oily-suited son of rodent privilege pimping the odds to its outcome.

That the estimated crowd of 6,227 was hugely underwhelmed by the Red Devils’ showing would be putting it mildly, for the 38–22 scoreline generously flattered the home side.

Byron knocked-on in their first set of six from the kick-off, Northern crossed soon after from a charge down and, most ominously, the plaintive cry of ‘fire up, Byron!’ was already getting an airing on the western hill.

The visitors’ approach was neither bruising nor complex. Rather than bashing their way through the guts, they simply shifted the pill from one side of the field to the other, at pace. As is deservedly the case, fortune favoured the brave and United’s quick, expansive passing was rarely undone by poor hands. Aiding and abetting their raids was a trainspotting, slow-moving Byron defence that, when it came to reading and stifling the attack, proved to be illiterate. After United had skipped away to 16–0 it was beginning to look like the Road Runner v Elmer Fudd. ‘They’re runnin’ ’em ragged,’ said the Old Bloke between bouts of bagging the government (when did Australia become a nation of working-class Tories?).

Byron at last got on the board through a converted try to second-rower Joseph Gordon, and you could feel an immediate complacency in the crowd that said ‘the boys have finally pulled their finger out. It’s only a matter of time until they assert themselves.’ Those of us who wanted to believe that were living in a fool’s paradise.

The passage of play that followed summed up the Devils’ slack afternoon. On a clearing kick, they booted the ball out on the full. Then, penalised for a head-high (admittedly, on a bloke no bigger than Danny DeVito), they were marched for back-chat, after which they stood and watched as United’s Willie Hammond sauntered around, counting the numbers before deciding whom he’d throw his pass to for another overlap and try in the corner.

It was 32–6 at half-time, and the horse had bolted.

All that was left for the Bay to strive for in the second forty was to save face. If they think that they did then self-delusion must be added to their list of woes.

Noel King crossed for a couple of tries and hooker Matthew Ferns got one, but United had put the cue in the rack.

Since opening the season with a stirring victory over reigning premiers Murwillumbah, the Devils have now gathered one paltry point from a possible six – and that against a twelve-man Mullumbimby outfit. Coach Nathan Cross, who guided the Bay to their 2008 grand-final victory, has some serious issues to deal with if he is to get anywhere near repeating that feat.

Most urgently, he will have to find a way to infuse some spirit into his side – it has gone missing in recent weeks.


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