It is the custom in bush footy for reserve graders, at the completion of their fixture, to wait outside the change rooms until the seniors emerge and run onto the field. Such wasn’t the case at Casino’s Queen Elizabeth Park on Saturday for, in Byron Bay’s case, the reggies and the first-graders were one and the same.
The only player who was not involved in the prelim that had finished only ten minutes earlier was prop Lucas ‘Depardieu’ Daniels, who, despite his courage and willingness, has not yet graduated from the Under-18s.
Against the highly motivated Cougars, the boys were on a hiding to nothing. And it grieves me to report, they got it big time, with the home side scoring at better than a point a minute to humble the Devils by 82–0. It was like the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, only with the men in red being on the receiving end of the slaughter.
‘Bay start spiritedly, but how long can they last?’, I wrote in my notebook. In footy, it’s not uncommon for ‘fresh legs’ to be spoken of as the difference between winning and losing, but the term is generally applied to what is happening late in the second half – on Saturday, the ‘fresh legs’ were all in maroon socks right from the kick-off.
The Cougars had racked up a brace of tries before each beleaguered Devil was fully aware of exactly what his role would be – it has been musical chairs as far as positional selections go all season – and they then ran in a couple more without raising a sweat. Winger ‘Kevin’ Keegan Isbester urged ‘heads up Bay!’, but the rest of us who had made the journey were already fearing that the Devils would be lucky to get naught.
Captain Ryan ‘The Crab’ O’Connell, looking down the barrel of 22–0, tried a short restart and, though successful, a rare shot at the Cougars’ line petered out to nothing.
Meanwhile, five-eighth and former Rabbitoh Roy Bell was killing us. When he ran in one of his umpteen tries – valiantly chased all the way by tireless Toby ‘Zoats’ Ryan – to make it 38–0 at the break, the Devils looked a bedraggled lot.
The second forty was even worse than that which preceded it. The Cougars were lining up to score while the Bay was reduced to one solitary interchange player on the bench. Insult was added to injury when the ref, taking a day off from his Jenny Craig Clinic, awarded a penalty to the Cougars after finding fault with a Byron play-the-ball. Given that the score was 72–0, it seemed petty in the extreme and revealed in the whistleblower a ‘feel’ for the game that might very well propel him into the ranks of the NRL.
It was not an afternoon to remember. The usual suspects tried their hearts out – Tom ‘Deano’ Martin, Miles ‘Davis’ Jones, Reece ‘iMoo Egan, O’Connell and Ryan, who cramped-up badly from his efforts – but they were outclassed by a ruthless opponent. The final score was pitiable – the no-shows that led to it were shameful.