Story & photo John Campbell
The Mullumbimby Giants registered their first win of the NRRRL season with a pulsating 11-10 victory over the Ballina Seagulls in an absolute ball-tearer at Kingsford Smith Park last Sunday.
How Mullum might be faring on the ladder had the draw been not so favourable to the southern teams is anybody’s guess (the Giants must next front up to premiers Murwillumbah for the second time in less than a month), but what we know without shadow of doubt is that, under new coach Troy Johnston, the boys in blue-and-gold will never be indicted for lack of heart.
While a Mothers Day keg under the green tarp on the eastern hill did a keen trade, the on-field battle raged for the full eighty. The Giants’ stocky half-back, Aaron Booth, was the hero when, after dodging an onrushing defender, he calmly slotted the field-goal that broke the 10-all deadlock with three breathless minutes to go, but each and every one of his teammates should be mentioned in dispatches. In a roughhouse encounter, they gave as good as they got and refused to be bullied by an outfit that clearly thought that the two competition points would be theirs without dispute.
Mullum started promisingly. Keeping it simple, they made modest progress but completed their sets and conceded only rare penalties. The expectation among the hosts’ supporters (one of whom was a harridan with a voice like a chainsaw going through corrugated iron) was that the high-flying Seagulls would sooner or later settle into their rhythm and overrun the visitors. Booth threw a spanner in the works when he darted in under the sticks.
There is no finer feeling than taking the lead. Mullum suddenly thought better of themselves and Ballina, put out by the upstarts, realised that the afternoon would not be a cakewalk after all. With half-back and captain Andrew Battese directing traffic (he means more to them than GI does to the Bunnies), the Seagulls drew level, but when Mullum’s lanky centre Tim ‘Tuck’ Abbott crossed, the atmosphere became dense with the scent of upset.
Ballina were not exactly rattled, but they were narked, and with their narkiness came what we might most generously call a lot of extra work being put into the tackle, i.e., they sailed closer to the wind than the rules condone.
Sean Watkins, Grant Cook and Abbott all took heavy blows in the line of duty – in the case of Abbott, Jake ‘the Peg’ Wood took umbrage and was penalised for sticking up for his mate – but none were bowed.
The Giants’ 10-8 lead at the break suggested that the second forty would go to the side that didn’t buckle.
Ballina threw everything at Mullum, but to no avail.
Led from the front by tireless captain Dan Molenaar, the Giants’ pack were superb.
Sometimes a win by a solitary point can be more rewarding than a win by fifty. After recent years in the wilderness, Mullumbimby’s character has been forged in the furnace. They are improving with every outing. Henceforth, they will not be taken lightly by any opponent.
The game was fantastic, the winners deserving.