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Byron Shire
April 16, 2021

Pride and passion mark a Mothers Day classic

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Total commitment to the cause  – Sunday’s big local derby clash at Les Donnelly Field on a sunny Mothers Day was a winner for sport. Photo Jeff ‘Giant Devil’ Dawson.
Total commitment to the cause – Sunday’s big local derby clash at Les Donnelly Field on a sunny Mothers Day was a winner for sport. Photo Jeff ‘Giant Devil’ Dawson.

If ever an occasion merited a hoary old cliché, it was this fantastic game of footy, for ‘neither side deserved to lose’. Indeed to go one further, on a gloriously sunny Sunday arvo at Les Donnelly Field, ‘rugby league was the winner.’

Byron Bay’s 14–8 victory over Mullumbimby, who had been in front until late in proceedings, had it all – brute force and physicality, flashes of sweet finesse and, from every player on the field, total commitment to the cause.

With the clock ticking down, the Red Devils were clinging to a 10–8 lead. A forthright set, free of error, had taken them deep into the Giants’ territory. The ball was moved quickly to winger Scott Stapleton, whose form this season has been outstanding. He didn’t have far to travel, but there was a desperate and determined Giant standing between him and the tryline. Stapleton, who has speed and size, opted for the Maori sidestep and ran over the top of his opponent. It was, we all assumed, the coup de grace. But the unsuccessful conversion attempt meant that Mullum could still snatch a draw. As the executioner climbed the gallows, they very nearly did that, with an ankle-tap all there was to stop a runaway Giants try.

Mullum took the points in a first half that was typical of a local derby – there were plenty of niggles, with mistakes allowing neither side to settle into a rhythm. The Giants made fewer of them and the longer it went the more Byron looked flustered and frustrated by the home side’s in-your-face approach. If the Devils didn’t know they were in the enemy’s domain, the mob at the halfway shed let them hear about it in no uncertain terms.

An early contretemps saw Mullum’s Dan Molenaar binned (it seemed an excessive response from the ref to something nobody saw), but Byron were unable to take advantage of the extra man. Instead they squandered chances with poor hands and questionable last-tackle options.

The Giants’ Troy McArthur scored after eighteen minutes and he was in again when he got to a chip just before it crossed the dead ball line – ‘you’re all over ’em Mullum!’ was the cry from the shed and, the way things were going, nobody could argue.

Even so, you sensed that Mullum’s half-time advantage of 8–0 might not be enough.

Penalties can break your heart, but neither side could claim that they received more of the raw prawn than the other. The whistle allowed Byron to get a sniff straight after the resumption and twinkle-toed centre Bill King kept his cool to take a cross-field kick to open the Devils’ account – the sigh of relief in the red bleachers was audible.

Joseph Gordon, having a blinder, was held up before King got another, with Chris King’s conversion giving the visitors a slender and incredibly hard-fought-for lead.

All that remained was Stapleton’s sealer.

Nobody shirked it, but Mullum’s young Turks caught the eye – Todd Arthur and Jack Govett are a real handful – while for the winners, it was the old heads of Ryan O’Connell and Simon Kelly who led the way.

Congrats and thanks to all involved for a great effort.

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