Story & photo John Campbell
Telling it like it is can too easily be counterproductive.
The Byron Bay Red Devils are at a psychological low ebb and the last thing they need is for the boot to be put into them. But to sugar the pill could do even more harm, so, being brutally honest, the Bay’s first half in Sunday’s NRRRL clash with the Tweed Coast Raiders was the worst forty that they have produced this season.
They were never in the hunt.
Lucky to be trailing by only 16–0 at the break, they ended up being smashed 36–6, and the score was fair enough.
In the preliminary bout, however, the reggies made it four wins from four starts, and the contrast between the two sides could not be more glaring.
The B-graders are playing with confidence, unity and a steadfast belief that they will get the bikkies if they just keep at it. A-grade are like a rudderless ship.
It was a hot afternoon (will the weather never cool?) and most of the estimated crowd of 3,702 turned up expecting the home side to break their duck against the equally under-performing visitors.
The early exchanges were tough, but the Devils, if holding their own, seemed uncertain of themselves and uncommunicative – to the extent that ‘talk, boys!’ was a repeated cry from the bench.
When the Raiders’ former Devil, Jared De Thierry, sent one of his forwards through a yawning gap to score the simplest of tries, a pall fell over the ground. ‘Here we go again’ was the fear that filled our hearts.
The boys struck back with vigour, but whenever they got a set close to their opponents’ line they found some way of surrendering the pill.
Their current form gives the impression that they practise poor passes at training… or are unaware that it is the six-tackle rule that applies, not the four – or two.
Byron managed a few raids in Tweed’s twenty, but a lack of penetration was almost as worrying as their regular inability to execute their work with any finesse – Tweed weren’t that good, but the Devils were making them look like champions.
That man De Thierry laid on a perfectly weighted chip for the Raiders’ second try and, though still early in the piece, pessimism took a stranglehold – the Old Bloke, making a welcome return to the outer but disappointed at the no-show of the lady linesman, was already talking about going home.
The game irretrievably drifted further from the Bay’s grasp, but when winger Alex ‘the Goanna’ Packer scored after a fantastic 70-metre break by centre Cameron ‘Jack’ Gibson, there was a fleeting sense that maybe, just maybe, the boys would show us what they are really capable of.
Coming back from 20–6 down with plenty of time to go is doable – but only if you’re playing well. Byron weren’t, and in the blinking of an eye the Raiders had buried the contest.
Glaring deficiencies in footy can be compensated for by the proper execution of the basics. The Devils at no point stopped trying, but their lack of concentration on the straightforward things was self-destructive.
If they are to succeed at Kyogle next week – and they must – they might follow the reggies’ example of refusing to drop their bundle. Go, the Bay!