The NRRRL competition is still only young, but Byron Bay’s 54–20 demolition of Northern United at Red Devil Park on Sunday was a much-needed return to the winner’s circle for the home side. Having fallen to last year’s grand-finalists – Murwillumbah and Ballina – in tough road trips, the boys would have been staring at a discouraging win/loss ratio of 1:3 had they not got the bickies.
Bitterly cold weather kept the crowd to an estimated 3,717, but those who braved the conditions were treated to a typically mercurial performance from the Devils, who mixed tardiness with class in what was always going to be a convincing victory.
Second-rower Joseph ‘General’ Gordon scored before the ground announcer had finished reading the team lists, and the Devils were very nearly in again from the resumption after a slicing run from centre William ‘Doctor’ King. They were in a groove and it was clear that if the Bay could maintain the pace at which they were executing then United would not live with them. And so it turned out – for the most part.
Capt/Coach Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell regathered after a chip inside the opposition’s twenty, passed to a rambunctious Simon ‘Nureyev’ Kelly, who stepped through the defence as though he were a principal dancer for the Bolshoi. With Jared ‘Monsieur’ De Thierry’s conversion, Byron was coasting at 10–0.
De Thierry then got a four-pointer for himself when he swept on a loose ball and raced 60 metres to score. Murder was imminent but, against the run of play, the Dirrawongs registered a simple draw-and-pass try that made locals wonder whether the Devils were about to enter one of their clocking-off phases.
Such concerns where dispelled when prop James ‘Buddha’ Griffiths stormed into a gap near the United line before delivering a beautiful one-handed off-load for the tyro Lachlan ‘Corporal’ Jones to scramble in under the posts.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of a few old heads, notably Don Walker, who was ball-boy when Dally Messenger was going around, the Dirrawongs dug in and were trailing by a not-humiliating 26–10 at the break after Chris ‘BB’ King, wearing odd boots, was the recipient of a fab back-handed bullet-like pass from quietly spoken Hemi ‘Sphere’ Mullen.
It had been chilly all day, but suddenly it was cold enough to freeze the brass off a bald monkey. We all rugged up and, not surprisingly, the Dirrawongs emerged from the sheds with not exactly a spring in their step.
The Old Bloke was mumbling something about what an awful place Guyra was in winter (nobody could argue) as the tireless, probing O’Connell got a deserved try and, doubtless in an effort to keep warm, a little barney erupted under the northern goalposts. Mullen and United’s angry #12 were marched for ten. From the penalty, Kelly was unstoppable in storming over the line.
Further tries to De Thierry and Chris King, who notched his hat-trick at the death, sealed what was a handsome and critical if not entirely clinical win for the Bay.
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Winning becomes a habit. The Evans Head Bombers, an honest but not outstanding team, have acquired it. Byron Bay’s Red Devils have gone cold turkey on it.
My dad was a man of few words, but he had an expression: ‘what you need is a good kick up the arse’.
All of a sudden, the threat of the wooden spoon looms larger than the prospect of a finals berth for the Byron Bay Red Devils.
Footy teams strive to make a fortress of their home ground. Playing in familiar surrounds, in front of one-eyed tragics, without having to travel far and wide, is the ideal scenario in rugby league-land.
It’s easy to be a smart arse after the event, isn’t it?