Local lads in a league of their own
By RENEE REDMOND
JUGS of cold beer and kilos of fresh prawns should have been enough to encourage a group of rugby league loving blokes to get together on a Friday afternoon.
But with invitations extended to former Australian and State of Origin players Steve 'Blocker' Roach and Paul Sironen, the event was a guaranteed sell-out.
Around 160 blokes of all ages and aftershaves turned out at the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club to share a beer with the two footy legends, who were there to reminisce about their past glories on the field.
Another big drawcard for the afternoon was Gold Coast consortium general manager Michael Searle and football manager Scott Sattler.
Searle and Sattler were there to express the importance of Northern Rivers players and fans joining their new NRL side.
Roach said the new Gold Coast team would be a great advantage for players of the Northern Rivers region.
Roach and Sironen, who live in the same street in a Sydney suburb, have been mates for more than 20 years and flew up especially for the function.
"Siro reckons the price in real estate in the street has plummetted since I moved in," Roach quipped.
Sironen is a regular visitor to the area to see his brother Rod in Lennox Head.
"It's nice to be here in an official capacity and support local rugby league," he said.
But Roach said he hadn't been back to Ballina since he played a trial game for the Balmain Tigers at Kingsford Smith Park in 1985. "It was 20 years ago I was about 30kg lighter. It's great to catch up with the blokes I have not seen for years," he said.
The two spoke for half-anhour with the vast majority spent on tongue-in-cheek character assassinations of former team-mates and officials.
Ballina Seagulls director and organiser Alan Perry said the function had turned out bigger than expected.
"We came up with the idea to get the sportsmen together for an afternoon a couple of weeks ago but when Steve Roach and Paul Sironen said they were coming, we sold out."
Marist Brothers hooker Scott Gibson, 20, of Ballina said he was just happy to get the day off work and drink free beer but the opportunity to meet Roach and Sironen made it even better.
"I'm a painter by trade and my boss, Alan Perry, got us a table. It's a great way to spend a Friday afternoon," he said.