Red Devils celebrate a century of rugby league at Byron Bay

ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION: Byron Bay captain-coach Ryan O’Connell makes a break down field. The Red Devils are celebrating 100 years in rugby league this weekend.
ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION: Byron Bay captain-coach Ryan O’Connell makes a break down field. The Red Devils are celebrating 100 years in rugby league this weekend. Debrah Novak

THERE will be plenty to talk about when Byron Bay celebrates 100 years in rugby league this weekend.

Officially, the history of Byron Bay rugby league dates from 1914 when representatives of teams from Byron Bay, Mullumbimby, Billinudgel, Bangalow and Brunswick Heads met in Bangalow and voted to form a competition.

Through the years they were known as the Hayseeds and Seagulls before finally being christened the Red Devils in 1974.

Club president Damon McCarthy put in plenty of research leading into the 100-year celebrations.

"It was touted last year and at first there was a bit of trouble finding proof of when it started," McCarthy said.

"It's a great milestone and we're really looking forward to the weekend."

Celebrations start on Friday night with a sit-down dinner at the Byron Bay Brewery.

A biography of each decade will be read with players from as far back as the 1951 team in attendance.

Barry Davidson, Bob Brooke and Lester Phillips will all be there.

There is also a player's reunion at the Byron Bay Bowling Club on Saturday before the Red Devils host Marist Brothers in its final home game of the season on Sunday.

The Red Devils have a lengthy history in local rugby league and have had plenty of ups and downs. They won a first grade premiership in 2008 before almost folding in 2011 when the club couldn't field a side in the top grade.

Byron Bay has also had the silvertails tag throughout the years after putting together talented sides that have been the envy of the competition.

They have worked hard in recent years using Lennox Head Dolphins as a junior feeder club.

Billy Goldsmith, Sam Dwyer and Fraser Jones are all first grade players who have come from the Dolphins.

"We nearly could have folded in 2011 and we only had an Under-18s and reserve grade team in the competition that year," McCarthy said.

"We wanted to have all three grades backing playing in the competition within three years and we did it in one.

"People talk about us buying players but money has never been a big issue here.

"Our match payments are no higher than any other club and we have guys that move up the coast but travel back down to play.

"We also have that Byron Bay surf culture and we struggle when some of them leave but we're lucky that a lot of them come back to us too."

Tickets for the dinner are still available and can be purchased on the Byron Bay Brewery website.

Topics:  byron bay red devils red devils rugby league

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