AFL players flock to Bay for $5000 tournament
IT WAS another weekend of sunshine, footy, tunes, ice-cold beverages and, for the winners, a big fat cheque at the annual Byron 9s AFL tournament.
The competition was a great success, with 34 teams across five divisions from across the country descending on Byron Bay to claim a share of the $4000 up for grabs in the senior competitions and $1000 for the runners-up.
The men's final was a thriller. Eshay Clan - in their third final in as many years - was the early leader, but it was Shooting Blanks, made up of players from Robina, Griffith Moorooka and Park Ridge, who pinched it with the last kick of the day.
State pride was on the line in the women's competition, as the Burleigh Bombers from Queensland took on Once Were Warriors, who drove up from Sydney.
Despite the Warriors taking the chocolates in their last pool game, it was the Bombers who came good when it counted, getting over the line.
The masters division was crowded. Fourteen teams entered, resulting in two pools having to be formed before they combined for the final.
Last year's winner, the Ashy All Stars, made it an all Victorian affair in the final when they took on the Weeping Willows. Funnily enough, they competed head-to-head in their own 9s competition back home.
The Willows were a class above at Byron 9s, though, going through undefeated.
A special shout-out must go to Heroes and Villains, who went from one team in 2015 to two in 2016, and still managed to look the part.
It was back-to-back for the Slingers in the mixed competition, albeit under a different name, proving too good for the Western Dingos in the decider.
Tweed Tigers upset the locals, the Byron Bay Magpies, in the youth final to the tune of 20 points, but there was some unbelievable footy played across that whole division - and a few future stars on show.
The celebrity spotters would have had a field day, with ex-AFL players Jude Bolton, Spida Everitt and Lenny Hayes, Aussie music legend Xavier Rudd, and former Neighbours star and Big Brother contestant Blair McDonough, all pulling on the boots.
As always, the umpires did a great job across both days. The hot weather made it hard to run around for game after game, so hats off to them.
So with this year's tournament over thoughts have turned to the 2017 event, which I suspect will be bigger and better again.