Helicopter takes rugby player to hospital
By STEVE SPINKS
GRAFTON rugby halfback Brett Graham was airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter on Saturday afternoon with a spinal injury from a tackle at Quays Reserve, Ballina.
Play was abandoned five minutes before full-time as a result of the injury with Ballina declared the winner 20-10 in the third round of Bangalow Hotel Far North Coast rugby union.
Graham spent Saturday night in hospital but Grafton coach Gary Powell said the halfback had not suffered any permanent damage.
"He has a hairline fracture of his second vertebrae," Powell said.
"It's not a nice thing to happen and the helicopter was called in because they didn't want to risk further injury in a vehicle.
"But I spoke to him this morning (Sunday) and he said he's hoping to be released this afternoon."
Powell said Graham was in moderate pain, but the worst facet of the injury was that the timber worker would miss six weeks' work.
The Grafton coach was also upset that further action was not taken by the referee.
"The tackle was definitely dangerous and we're quite cranky about it," Powell said.
"We're very disappointed nothing was done.
"At the end of the day we've lost one of our best players for two months and nothing's happened to them."
But Ballina coach Karl Lupton defended the referee and his player.
"I saw the tackle and it was a hard tackle, but it's a tackle made every day," he said.
"Unfortunately, Barney (Graham) just fell wrong.
"Just because a bloke gets injured doesn't mean it deserves a send-off or a penalty.
"The referee didn't think there was a penalty in it."
Despite the premature end, there was no conjecture over the result.
According to Powell, Ballina simply took their opportunities, while his team struggled to find the line.
"There wasn't a lot in it," he said.
"But they capitalised on our mistakes."
Powell nominated flankers Paul Cameron and John Chevally as his best players, along with winger Trent Dickson and second-rower Mark Robinson.
Lupton said back-rowers Drew Baggaley and Liam Preston, winger Kane Scott and five-eighth Luke Sullivan were the pick of the Seahorses.
BALLINA 20 (L Preston, K Scott, Andrew Gordon tries; Adam Gordon conversion, penalty goal) d GRAFTON 10 (J Landrigan 2 tries).
Reserve grade: Ballina 23 d Grafton 10.
Third grade: Ballina 17 d Grafton 5.
Under-19s: Grafton d Ballina (forfeit).
SOUTHERN Cross University chalked up their first victory of the season with a hard-fought 22-13 win over Yamba at Maurie Ryan Oval, Lismore.
Former NSW Country Under-20 and Gold Rats No8 Dan Doyle was awarded player of the match by the referee, but any of the six back-rowers could have received the award.
With heavy rain limiting the expansive football both sides like to play, it became a battle between the two back rows to hold possession.
The Buccaneers, led by No8 Mitch McLennan, continually stole the ball from their Uni counterparts and Yamba looked like they would notch their first win in first grade when they led 13-10 with 15 minutes remaining.
But gradually Doyle, along with flanker Ben Matters and NSW Country Under-20 flank-er Henry Vanderglas, wore down their opposition so the Gold Rats dominated possession in the final stages.
SCU 22 (J Jaszczak 3, D Thom tries; P McMahon conversion) d YAMBA 13 (B Hunt, P Hope tries; B Ralston penalty goal).
Reserve grade: SCU 17 d Mullumbimby 3.
Under-19s: Lennox Head 15 d SCU 5.
CASINO extended their winning run to three with a tough 16-5 result against Wollongbar at Albert Park, Casino.
With rain making handling difficult, the Bulls adapted better to the tricky conditions.
With both sides scoring one try apiece, the boot of winger Tory Gilmour proved the difference as he slotted three penalty goals and a conversion.
Bulls coach Mick Russell nominated second-rower Heath Johnston, No8 Dave Schneider, five-eighth Nathan Quirk and halfback Jay Ruwhiu as his best.
Wollongbar five-eighth Nick Glynn was always dangerous, while winger Matt Lloyd received one point from the referee.
CASINO 16 (J Lyons try; T Gilmour 3 penalty goals, conversion) d WOLLONGBAR 5 (N Glynn try).
Reserve grade: Casino 22 d Wollongbar 10.
Under-19s: Wollongbar 44 d Casino 19.
Third grade: Lismore 10 d Yamba 7.
Village competition: Bangalow 22 d Lennox Head 0, Iluka 39 d Richmond Range 0, Kyogle v Evans River (no result received).
First grade pointscore: Casino 13, Ballina 13, Lismore 10, SCU 4, Grafton 1, Wollongbar-Alstonville 1, Yamba 0.