Ballina fires despite losing Milton
AFTER four rounds of the NRRRL competition, Ballina is the only undefeated team, after a 66-20 demolition of the previously unbeaten South Grafton.
With the loss of star player Milton Thaiday mid week to the Newcastle Knights, Ballina could have been excused of not being on their game, but as the score indicates they totally dominated their opposition.
Chris Binge's policy of giving young juniors a go in the top grade seems to be working very well with two of the sides best players being still under 18's.
Tweed Seagulls may well have stamped themselves as the side to beat after a comprehensive 40-24 victory over the highly fancied Cudgen.
Lower Clarence won their first game of the season with a tight 21-20 win over Marist Brothers at the colosseum in Maclean, Brothers skipped to a match winning 20-4 lead but seemed to clock off early and pay the price, let's hope this loss doesn't come back to bite them later in the season.
Murwillumbah showed they may be the quiet achievers of this year's comp after a 62-26 thrashing of Kyogle, knowing their coach Con Theodosiou as I do he'll be doing his best to talk up the other clubs so as to not put too much pressure on his side, but beware, Murwillumbah will be there when the whips are cracking at the end of the season.
Good to see Casino bounced back from their flogging from Tweed Seagulls to record a good win over Grafton. Casino are going through a rebuilding period with a side full of promising youngsters who in 1 or 2 years will be alot better players for the experience they recieve this season.
Without doubt the match of the round this week is between Marist Brothers and Ballina.
When you talk of rivalries they dont come much fiercer than the one between these two sides.
I know at Brothers the first match you always looked up when the draw came out was the one against Ballina and you really looked forward to the clash, some teammates like Des Maher actually marked it off on their calenders such was their desire to get out there and rip into them.
Brothers have held a dominance over Ballina for a good few years now, but most of the protagonists from these past clashes have gone leaving a new group of players to keep alive a rivalry, although fierce, built mainly on a mutual respect for each other.
This match may be a real test of my resolve to stay retired because come 3pm Sunday there is no place I'd rather be than in the middle of Crozier Oval taking on a red-hot Ballina side.
This Saturday sees the start of the Group One Junior Competition. Unlike the senior comp the juniors is not played against the sides from group 18.
By all reports there are record numbers of kids lining up this weekend, some who have played for years and others who are having their first taste of our great game.
This can be put down to a few things, like the Parramatta vs Cronulla match earlier in the year which was attended by thousands of kids or the fact that Rugby League is a great game to be involved in with your mates.
The issue of safety in Junior Rugby League has been adressed with the implementation of a Code of Conduct which is applicable to all levels of Rugby League.
A copy of the code of conduct should be read by every player, parent, coach and official so everyone knows what is expected of them.
So to the group executive, get off your backsides and get enough copies to the clubs to hand out.
These codes have been brought in to make rugby league as safe as possible to all that play it.
While this sounds great, unfortunately these codes are not always followed how they should be and seem to be policed at each clubs discretion.
The footy our kids see on TV often dictates how they behave on the field.
One example is Sonny Bill Williams. I'm sure most kids are trying to emulate Sonny Bill at the moment which is great but unfortunately there is the other side of what they see, the high tackles, niggling other players, and backchatting referees.
The codes are there to protect the players, referees and clubs from those who choose to go outside the rules of the game. They are also there to make sure our kids get the most fun they can out of footy, afterall that's what it's all about, fun.
To see a kid's face after he scores his first try or makes a tackle with his mate, to me that's what rugby league is all about and with the code of conduct being policed correctly we can keep those looks on our kids' faces for many many years. Good luck to all the players this week. Have FUN.
Play of the week
Canterbury have struggled to repeat their efforts of last year and went into last week's match against Newcastle desperate to get their season back on track.
With 20 minutes to go they were cruising to a good win, but a spirited Knights come back saw the game in the balance right to the end. Newcastle threw caution to the wind at the end and looked set to score the winning try until Bulldogs fullback Luke Patten made the tackle of the season to deny the Knights.
Patten's effort was certainly the play of the week and if the Bulldogs can build on the win it may prove to be the play of the season.
So to all those Bulldogs diehards like Jonesy, Lucky Laurie and Ripper Mckinnon, that light at the end of the tunnel may not be the oncoming train but a faint ray of hope that the doggies are back.