Bombing a myth
By DARREN MONCRIEFF
IT'S the biggest myth in football and the Ballina Bombers will today attempt to bury it once and for all.
That is, the more on-field success a club enjoys, the less 'hungry' its players become. Where there was once a burning desire to win at all costs, there is now a creeping complacency.
Try as you might, you will find none of that among the Bombers, winners of the past two Summerland Australian Football League grand finals.
Ballina this afternoon will start as hot favourites to add to the club's five premierships when they take on the Byron Magpies at Shultz Oval, Bangalow, in the 2007 SAFL grand final.
And there is good reason for their favouritism; none of the other four teams has come close to knocking off the Bombers this season.
The defending premiers this year have nine new players, three of whom have yet to win a flag at any level.
"Winning premierships actually makes you really hungry for more because you realise how good it is and can be," said Ballina coach Scott Brooks, who led the Bombers to the premiership last year.
"I mean, personally, if I had known we'd be no chance this year, I wouldn't have put myself through a tough year of training, playing, getting back up and doing it all again.
"But I could see that we were (a chance) and I wanted to be there and win another flag.
"At the other end, you have real hard-luck stories like Kurt Bullock and Matty Gardiner, who haven't won a premiership."
Byron, too, have their fair share of premiership-hungry players.
There are only a handful left from the Magpies' glory days in the 1990s and early 2000s when they'd win flag after flag after flag, often at the expense of Ballina.
The previous time Byron coach Carl Fail was involved in a grand final was way back in 1966 as a 16-year-old, which his team won.
"Grand finals don't come around too often," said Fail, a fitness adviser to the Sydney Swans in the early 1980s.
"It's especially true of this combination of players.
"We discussed this after training on Thursday night; who here has played and won senior grand finals. There weren't too many in this group that had."
Both sides will go into the grand final at full strength, a luxury neither has enjoyed for any length of time this season. The coaches have named squads of 24, with two each to be culled today.
The age-old question of whether the week off or a hard slog the week before a grand final will benefit one team or the other will be answered around 5pm.
Ballina had an hour-long beach session at Lennox Head last Saturday while Byron slogged it out for 120 minutes in warm conditions against Lismore.
The danger for Byron, too, is whether they've played their grand final a week earlier, but Fail was quick to downplay any suggestion of that.
"Sometimes, just making a grand final is a great achievement," he said.
"A lot of teams fall for that but I don't believe that's what's happening with us.
"I probably mentioned the words 'grand final' maybe once last Saturday.
"Even after the game, things were pretty low-key. The boys knew what they were playing for. There was no need for me to remind them."
There are some intriguing match-ups.
You'd pay good money to see Travis Clarke and Danny Frith line up alongside each other. Thankfully, today's game is free. Both onballers are solidly built, thrive on the hard-ball get and love the tough stuff.
Bullock at full-forward presents Magpies captain and rebounding full-back Tim Caldwell with a challenge, while Greg Pekin will have to mind Shem Aitken at full-forward.
But it's in the middle where the game will be won. Shut down ball supply and the forwards will starve for ball and will roam around half-forward for a touch, reducing their effectiveness.
Where the Bombers have the edge is their evenness. Pick a position and you'll find a player capable of winning it against anyone in this league. And they're a big game team.
The danger for Byron is their crop of youngsters becoming either intimidated, 2over-awed 1or both.
Both coaches have until 12.30pm today to decide on the final make-up of their teams.
The game starts at 2pm.
Shield and medal presentations will follow.
BALLINA B: Scott Budden, Greg Pekin, Jake Martlew HB: Craig Borley, Sam Kennedy, Matt Gardiner C: Heath Schodde, Tim Price (c), Matt Bettesworth HF: Bryce Porker, Dan Freeman, Pat Bulzomi F: Hayden Borley, Kurt Bullock, Matt Bell Rucks: Andy Attewell, Brian Walshe, Travis Clarke Interchange: Luke Reyne, Ben Plummer, Phil Pattison, Josh Weeman, Matt Champion, Scott Brooks (coach)
BYRON B: Paul Cason, Tim Caldwell, Crispin Myres HB: Graham Hayworth, Nigel Hampson, Jarrod Metselaar C: Karim Kaufman, Noah Kaufman, Sean McQueen HF: Gabe Hart, John Porritt, Danny Frith F: Matt Decarne, Shem Aitken, Joe Ryan Rucks: Sam Buultjens, Christo Barrett-Hall, Lennon Matchett-Oates Interchange: Graham Colpus, Johnno Boyd, Peter Kapoulitsa, Hayden Steele, Ilija Srhoj, Dan Tiffin, Darren Foster Coach: Carl Fail