Grand final run began at Ballina for union coach


EASTWOOD rugby union coach Chris Hickey will be lining up in his 15th straight grand final today when his team takes on Randwick in the Sydney first grade competition.

However, Hickey's extended grand final run started on the Northern Rivers when he was coach with the Ballina Seahorses.

Hickey started his first grade coaching career with the Seahorses in 1990 and he coached teams to grand finals for four consecutive years.

Ballina coach in 2004 Karl Lupton, was a player in all of the Seahorses early 1990s grand final appearances.

"Actually I was speaking to him (Hickey) the other day," Lupton said.

"He was laid up in hospital all last week with a crook back.

"We had quick chat about footy, but he comes up here every Christmas and catches up with all the boys."

Hickey was a teacher but he headed to Ballina to manage the Ballina Fair Swim and Gym and he had an immediate affect on the club.

"It was so obvious," Lupton said.

"We won our first ever minor premiership and made the grand final in his first year.

"He had such a professional approach not just to first grade, but the way the whole club was run even down to developing juniors."

Although they made four consecutive grand finals, Ballina only claimed one while Hickey was in charge in 1992.

However, from 1996 they won six consecutive grand finals, four with coach Col Groves who learnt his trade from Hickey.

After losing the 1993 grand final to Southern Cross University, Hickey moved to Tuggeranong in Canberra where his teams appeared in a further seven deciders before taking over at Eastwood.

Hickey has long been regarded as one of the premier coaches in Australia after he was an assistant coach to Rod Macqueen at the ACT Brumbies.

However, he has never got the big jobs with Super 12 or Australian teams.

"We all thought when he left here that he'd be coaching Australia by now," Lupton said.

"But he speaks his mind and he doesn't bow to people.

"He could definitely do the job."

For the record, Hickey has won eight grand finals and lost six.

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