Alwyn's big adventure
ALWYN ROBERTS kicks the red dust around the graffiti-marked storage sheds at Goonellabah's Clifford Park and smiles sheepishly.
He's the captain of the Northern United first-grade side that will contest the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final against Lower Clarence at Maclean on Sunday.
Roberts is a man of few words who leads by example on the field.
He is the lock forward of the team responsible for countless hit-ups and tackles during 80 minutes of sweat, pain and skill.
He looks forward to media interviews about as much as any man looks forward to a prostate examination but when he speaks he does so with a quiet concentration.
“It was a good feeling when Chris (Binge, the coach) appointed me as first-grade captain and I think I've been doing a pretty good job so far,” Roberts said at training last night.
“To be in a grand final is a big thing for me. It's a big thing for my partner and kids and all the supporters and fans of the club.”
It's been a bigger than big year for the 25-year-old.
On the football front, Roberts played for the Northern Thunderbolts in the NSW Country Championships and was one of the semi-finalist's best performers.
On Sunday, he will lead the Dirawongs proudly into their maiden grand final in their first year in the competition
And to top it all off, his partner Jacinta had their second child, a boy named Alwyn junior, four months ago.
“When Chris first rang me to come and play here I had actually decided to have a year off and spend time with the family,” Roberts said.
“It's been good to be here with all the boys; it's a good bunch of blokes and you can't ask for a better side.
“I do thank God for the decisions I make and being the first side around here to make the grand final in our first year is a real big ask but we worked hard all pre-season and the good results have come our way. But we've fought hard and it wasn't easy.
“It's been a real big year for me and my partner Jacinta.”
Roberts knows what a grand final win would mean for the supporters of Northern United but you get the feeling a grand final victory would go a long way to erasing the hurt he experienced when playing for Ballina in their dramatic loss to Mullumbimby in the 2007 decider.
The Seagulls were five minutes away from claiming the premiership that year only for the Giants to stage a late rally to steal the title and break Ballina hearts.
“It does hurt losing a grand final in first grade,” Roberts said.
“I've won a few grand finals in reserve grade but first grade is more important and to lose that year was devastating.
“It's a big ask to win down there (Maclean) but all I can ask the boys is to do the stuff we do week-in week-out, train hard and then perform on the paddock and get a good result.”
Roberts starts to look at his team training.
He's tapping his feet in the red dust anxious to be out on the field, to be part of the team, to have a chuckle with his mates.
Interviews are boring. But he's happy to answer one more question.
Will he be back next season for another run with the Dirawongs?
“To be honest, I'm thinking of having a year off and spending more time with the kids,” Roberts said.
“If we win maybe I'll have to put the boots back on and back it up.
“We'll just have to wait and see but this weekend should be a good game between both clubs.”