Long before the arrival of surfers and hippies, backpackers and cafe lizards, Byron was a rugby league town and 2014 marks the centenary since the greatest game of all was established in the Bay. In celebrating this epochal moment, the Red Devils flogged Lower Clarence by 58–0 on Sunday in their first home fixture of the NRRRL season.
The previous week’s Indian summer had thankfully cooled and, under a low cloudy sky, Ryan ‘Begorah’ O’Connell led his side on to the field before an estimated 3,989 keen locals. The footy was back – you beauty!
Looking a million bucks in the club’s new jerseys of neo-classical white hoops, it didn’t take long for the boys to assert their superiority. Quicker, fitter and sharper from the outset, and playing with unbridled enthusiasm – more than has been apparent for some little time, it must be said – the Devils dominated field position and only let themselves down by a tendency to rush the moment. Even before a point had been registered, however, there was a sense that a cricket score was on offer.
Winger James ‘Mook’ Harrington opened the Bay’s account when he took a lovely one-handed Matt Gidley pass from centre Fraser ‘Fletcher’ Jones, balancing it delicately on his buttocks before diving over in the corner.
The Magpies’ resumption went out on the full and before you knew it Hemi ‘Sphere’ Mullen, a powerhouse all arvo, and Harrington again had crossed. Jones then got one for himself and, from a cross-field chip by Jared ‘Monsieur’ De Thierry, who was showing a new willingness to go outside rather than inside, exciting recruit William ‘Doctor’ King gathered the bouncing ball to notch the first of his brace. King’s second four-pointer came soon after when he made a piece of cake out of a horrible bounce from yet another De Thierry kick.
A flamboyant passage that saw Simon ‘don’t call me Toothless’ Kelly and ‘the Prophet’ Elijah Colbey putting slipper-to-pill ushered in oranges, with the Devils leading 28–0. As out of their depth as Lower Clarence were, Byron’s effort had been scintillating.
The second forty was much the same as the first. Fullback Scott ‘Julio’ Stapleton crossed, Jones got another, O’Connell laid it on a platter for Harrington’s hat-trick, Kelly outsprinted the ragged defence for a cracking individual try and young winger Cameron ‘Tree-trunks’ Green exhibited blistering pace down the left flank before planting the ball under the sticks (and delighting the Old Bloke, who boisterously boasted of a family relationship).
Pleasing as the side’s attack was, their commitment to defence was equally impressive, and telling. With the result beyond doubt, they might have slackened, but tacklers turned up mob-handed to protect the zero on the scoreboard.
Sterner tests await – premiers Ballina will be confronted after the Easter break – but the Red Devils of 2014 have established their bona fides with smashing confidence. If Sunday’s effort is anything to go by, they will be in this comp up to their neck.
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