Story & photo John Campbell
If ever an old saying was proved right, it was at Les Donnelly Field on Sunday when the outnumbered Mullumbimby Giants refused to accept defeat in their NRRRL clash with Northern United.
There were only a few minutes left when Troy Johnston, the Giants’ coach and half-back, was binned after giving lip to the ref – his umbrage was understandable, for a horrendous call had gone against his boys, but the bloke with the whistle never changes his mind. In the sheds he joined bullocking Jack Govett, who had been marched in the previous set for a similar indiscretion. United led 20-18. With eleven men against thirteen, all seemed lost. But fate, as we know, keeps happening.
The visitors knocked-on and Mullum got a feed forty out. Footy glory beckoned.
Instead of working their way to the line in the hope of a fifth tackle miracle, five-eighth Dan Woods kicked as soon as the ball cleared the scrum. The ball floated in slo-mo over the tip of Chincogan as its chasers hared after it. Winning the race, with the mob in the western bleachers going apeshit and those in the clubhouse hanging out of the windows doing likewise, was full-back Reece Carruth. Valour carried him to the edge of ecstatic hope, the bounce was favourable, he plunged over. Bedlam rightfully ensued.
If the worth of rugby league is measured by passion, persistence, bravery, flights of fancy and an old-fashioned stirring of the possum, this was a great game.
The first half belonged to Mullum. They played direct, their forwards, led by Trojan prop Dan Molenaar, asserted authority and, with halves Johnston and Woods calling the shots, they were on-song and dominant. Centre Tim Abbott scored off a precisely placed cross-field bomb from Johnston, Grant Cook carried defenders over the line with him from dummy-half and the home side was ahead 12-0.
Northern came to life when their centre collected a loose ball, stepped elegantly and ran the length of the field to score in the corner, his admirable athleticism being marred by the abusive serve he fired at the crowd – he made a complete goose of himself.
Going to oranges at only 12-4 when it might have been more gave home supporters cause for anxiety. Rightfully so, it turned out.
Before the break, United’s flashy backs, rattled by the robust tackling bearing down on them, were having a look and regularly surrendering possession. They returned more resolute and, with the Giants sluggish at the restart, had scored twice to be ahead 16-12 within ten minutes.
Veteran Jake ‘Cobar’ Francisco re-kindled Mullum’s desire with a try made of pure determination, but the Giants then stood and watched as former Rabbitoh Roy Bell, United’s danger man, waltzed in to put the visitors ahead 20-18. The tired legs appeared to be in gold and blue socks. But that’s the thing about the Giants … you should never give up on them.
They lifted for one last surge and, on the back of great runs from Molenaar, Govett and Robbie ‘Crazy’ Goodacre, they got what was owed them, and everybody went home happy.