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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Byron’s ticker too much for Tweed’s bluste

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JOHN'S NRL 32.06

The Red Devils’ fullback, Brett ‘Sidestep’ Kelly figured prominently in Byron’s win over the Raiders on Sunday.

Story & photo John Campbell

There are a lot of factors that contribute to winning a game of rugby league, no matter at what level it is contested. First and foremost among them is heart – or ‘ticker’, as it is known to the great unwashed who love the game.

On a perfect afternoon for footy and before a crowd approaching 4,474, Byron Bay displayed tons of it at Red Devil Park on Sunday, running out 15–6 victors over the more fancied Tweed Coast Raiders in their Round 14 NRRRL clash.

A disastrous start to the season has put the play-offs out of reach for Byron, but in the last month they have shown the sort of grit and total commitment, if not the panache, that will always keep a team in the hunt.

As against Cudgen the previous week, the first forty minutes were entirely forgettable. The Devils were a disjointed rabble for much of the time, with the Raiders enjoying a glut of possession and setting up camp in Byron’s half.

But the men in red kept turning up in defence, bustling the bigger Tweed players and repeatedly forcing them into error. When full-back Brett ‘Sidestep’ Kelly converted captain Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell’s try from dummy half to make it 6–all at the break, all of us had to agree that the scoreline was against the run of play. But that’s the thing with the Bay – as the poet said, they stick like shit to a blanket and will not go away.

The second forty was a much tougher affair.

Taking advantage of Byron’s superior fleetness of foot, Billy ‘the Lion’ King chipped for Kelly to chase and regather, only for the final pass to support to go astray. But the dose was repeated soon after when Kelly stabbed the ball over the onrushing Tweed tacklers, got to it first and ladled it out to Ben ‘Globetrotter’ Webber. A mathematical genius, Webber applied Pythagoras’s theorem in an instant and made a direct forty-five-degree sort-of sprint to the corner post. He is no Usain Bolt, but Webber’s little legs got him there ahead of the cover and with Nathan ‘Maynard’ Nicholls’s fabulous sideline conversion, the Bay were ahead 12–6. And the mouthy Raiders were rattled.

It was at this point that proceedings got really meaningful.

Again and again Tweed took it up the guts, expecting Byron to crumble. Their last tackle options were as brainless as the abusive mob that were supporting them on the eastern side of the field, and the Devils’ resolve was unbreakable.

Kelly converted a penalty to make it 14–6 and, being the gentleman that he is, thanked the visitors from Tweed for their encouragement. Webber followed up with a curving field goal that sailed half an inch inside the right-hand upright to conclude the scoring.

For all its faults, you can’t help loving games like this, when it’s one in – all in.

Good onya, Devils, you were great.

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