Ballina fires young guns
By STEVE SPINKS
SIX Ballina fledglings took flight yesterday afternoon as the Seagulls thrashed the Grafton Ghosts 54-16 in round 15 of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League at Kingsford Smith Park yesterday.
Ballina set a club record of having six Under-18s players ? fullback Damien Buckley, winger Robbie Miles, halfback Ben Crawford, prop James Rix, second-rower Ed Killingbeck and centre Clarence Kelly ? as part of their first grade squad of 17.
And the youngsters didn't disappoint.
Miles, Rix and Crawford all crossed for tries, while Killingbeck, Kelly and Buckley made some outstanding contributions to the Seagulls' effort.
With Australian Schoolboy representative Mitch Aubusson on the sidelines, Ballina may have as many as seven Under-18s in their squad come semi-final time.
"We're just going through the qualifications at the moment," coach Chris Binge said.
"They are a big part of my plans should we make the finals.
"I'm very lucky that the junior development down here is so good.
"I was saying to Steve Coleman (manager) that I don't think the Ballina Football Club has had six Under-18s in A-grade in one day.
"As you can see, all the young blokes who played today are up to first grade and all have big futures."
Kelly and Miles showed pace and strength outwide, while Rix and Killingbeck were strong up the centre of the ruck.
Crawford took his chances well as a replacement in the second-half.
But it was Buckley who was the standout.
He attacked the ball whether it was on the ground or in the air, defended stoutly and proved deceptively strong in the tackle.
If it was the youngsters who provided the flair, it was the older members of the Seagulls who provided the substance.
Lock Josh Mathers, second-rower Corey Windle, props Tyler Iverson and Grant Erickson and halfback Troy Johnstone all contributed solidly to the victory.
Ballina led 28-12 at half-time and at no stage looked in danger of losing the match.
At times the Seagulls switched off during the second-half but they still managed to break the 50 point barrier.
The Seagulls strike power and rushing defence was simply too much for an outgunned Ghosts outfit.
Halfback Trent Barber, prop Matt Michaels and coach Matt McKee toiled hard for Grafton.
BALLINA 54 (Ashley Moran 2, Justin Bolt, Matt Temby, Matt Slattery, Josh Mather, James Rix, Ben Crawford, Robbie Miles, Trent Gasnier tries; Justin Bolt 5, Troy Johnstone, Trent Gasnier goals) d GRAFTON GHOSTS 16 (Jeremy Fahey, Shane Denshioe, Matt Michaels tries; Chris Adamson 2 goals). Half-time: Ballina 28-12. Penalties: 8-3. Referee: Brett Beutel.
Reserve grade: BALLINA 46 (Jamie Howard, Ray Welsh, Phil Alley 2, Les Roberts, Paul King 2, Des Anderson tries; Matt Thompson 3, Les Roberts, Des Anderson 3 goals) d GRAFTON GHOSTS 8 (Scott Pereira, Scott Kilduff tries).
Under-18s: BALLINA 36 (Ed Killingbeck 2, Murray Lewis, Brett Izzard, Kane Montgomery, Clarence Kelly 2 tries; Ben Crawford 3 goals) d GRAFTON GHOSTS 8 (Regan Freeburn, Andrew Lollback tries).