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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Vale Les Donnelly, viva the Giants!

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John Campbell

A game of footy doesn’t necessarily have to reach the highest standard for it to be a fantastic contest, for it to be packed with drama and bursting with emotion.

Les Donnelly, synonymous with rugby league in the area and the man after whom Mullumbimby’s home ground is named, passed away on the day before his beloved Giants hosted Marist Brothers in their Round 11 NRRRL clash.

It also happened to be the tenth anniversary of Mullum’s 2014 grand final victory over the Rams and to mark the occasion the club minted a one-off jersey with the names of the players from that day on the backs of the current crop of Giants in equivalent positions – wearing number 10, prop Dan Molenaar was the sole survivor from 2004.

It might be true that all is fair in love and war, but the axiom certainly does not apply to football, for Mullum’s season has been blighted by injury and demoralising near misses. With a place in the play-offs a virtual impossibility, there was not a lot hanging on the result of Sunday’s encounter – except for pride, and the Giants possess that quality in spades.

Mullum’s powerhouse front-rower Josh Castellano carries the ball into the teeth of the Marist Brothers defence.
Mullum’s powerhouse front-rower Josh Castellano carries the ball into the teeth of the Marist Brothers defence.

The boys got off to a flyer, with lock Jake ‘the Peg’ Wood winning the scramble for the pill after a Mitch Lambert chip into the Brothers’ in-goal. A 6–0 lead was quickly surrendered and, with the Papists looking quicker and better organised, the home side fell behind 10–6. Jack Govett, who went well beyond the advantage line every time he touched the ball, registered the first of his brace of four-pointers shortly before the break but, at 10–all, neither side had set the world on fire.

The second forty was a different story altogether.

The Giants are classic heart-attack material – just when you think they’re taking control they will knock-on from the kick-off, allow the other mob’s goal-line drop out to bounce into touch, or somehow contrive to squander the advantage that they had struggled to establish.

If they were going to get the bikkies, as fate surely had decreed, they were going to do it the hard way … Enter the crowd.

With old-timers and tragics willing them on, the Blue-and-Golds dug that little bit deeper. The pressure was all coming from them, forcing the visitors into mistakes and, on more than one occasion, causing a Marist ball-carrier to have a look.

Lanky five-eighth Jason Willis struggled under an avalanche of defenders and, with eight minutes left, barnstorming centre Robbie ‘Crazy’ Goodacre got the try that we all thought was the winner. But no – Brothers brought it back to 18–all and Mullum was looking down the barrel of bitter defeat.

Cometh the hour… Mullum’s performance had been unstinting but not exactly polished all arvo. Once more they found themselves pounding the opposition’s line, but not quite able to finesse their way through it. From a not particularly constructive set, Govett found himself in possession, twenty out and with an entire defensive wall in front of him. Young Jack took the most obvious line between A and B – he put his head down and arse up, ran straight and knocked attempted tacklers down as though they were 9-pins. It was a magnificent effort and it rightfully sent the crowd berko.

24–18 to the Giants. Old Les would have looked down with the widest grin of all.

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