Alstonville player Daniel Bonesi heads the ball in Saturday’s match against Ballina at Alstonville. It was the game that sealed Ballina’s fate as a premier reserve grade team for next year. Marc Stapelberg.
Alstonville player Daniel Bonesi heads the ball in Saturday’s match against Ballina at Alstonville. It was the game that sealed Ballina’s fate as a premier reserve grade team for next year. Marc Stapelberg.

A season of woe for Seahorses

BALLINA Seahorses soccer manager Brett Monnox did not go looking for excuses when summing up why his team got relegated to next year’s premier reserve competition.

Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Alstonville meant the Seahorses finished bottom of the table in the Far North Coast’s top competition for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Seahorses finished on 13 competition points with three wins, four draws and 10 losses from 17 rounds – three points behind the second-last placed Casino Cobras.

After Ballina made the semi-finals of the premier league last year, Monnox did not even want to mention the common term “bad luck” when discussing his team’s plight this season.

“To say we suffered from bad luck sounds like I’m searching for a cop-out,” he said.

“We’re extremely disappointed that we’re going to be relegated.

“We’re a club with over 40 years of history, so what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger, but this is a real kick in the pants for us.”

The Seahorses started the season in promising fashion, winning two and drawing one of their first four games.

Then the wheels fell off. The club experienced 12 winless rounds of soccer before beating Casino 1-0 in the penultimate round of the regular season.

“We lost six straight games in that time and that knocked around the boys’ confidence,” Monnox said.

“We were forced to change our shape and become more defence-orientated.”

Monnox said his team lost 14 players over the off-season and gained only eight, meaning he was forced to blood a stack of young players.

One of those lost players was Jake O’Grady, who suffered a horrific broken leg in last year’s semi-finals campaign.

“We lost a lot of quality and we expected some 17 and 18-year-olds to step up to premier league standard a bit too early,” Monnox said.

“The team missed Jake’s drive and enthusiasm.”

Saturday’s loss to Villa was a reflection of Ballina’s season.

“We were probably guilty of trying too hard,” Monnox said.

“Our goalkeeper Lucas Wagland is one of the better keepers in this region but he slipped over in terrible conditions and the ball trickled in to give Villa their first goal.

“If that was us on the attack, the ball probably goes past the post,” he said.

“I put that down to the Soccer Gods.”

Monnox does not want next year to be a rebuilding season.

“We want to be back in the premier league in 2013,” he said.

“But we need to work on our goal-scoring – that’s been a problem of ours over the last two or three years.”

Monnox refused to single out his players or coach Rodney “Rocket” Troughton for his team’s rapid fall from grace.

“Rocket is a very honourable man and a 300-game veteran of the club,” Monnox said.

“He’s like the horse Gunsynd – a real fighter. Rocket was actually part of the last Ballina team that got relegated and told us relegation can be a good thing because it will motivate the players,” he said.

Troughton will, however, need to re-apply to coach the Seahorses again next season.

In a rarity for the Ballina town, its first grade NRRRL team also finished second-last.

“I can’t remember this happening before,” Monnox said.



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