Off to the big league
By STEVE SPINKS
IT was short and sweet.
Milton Thaiday's stint with the Ballina Seagulls came to an abrupt end this week when he was signed by National Rugby League club Newcastle.
Thaiday, a former NSW Waratahs rugby union player, has signed a contract to play out the rest of the season with the Knights.
Yesterday, Thaiday was dumped back into the rigours of professional football.
He trained with the first-grade squad for two hours, had a break, went to the gym for a weight session, then joined the Newcastle Premier League squad for a training run in the afternoon.
Thaiday will make his Knights debut with the Premier League squad against the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday.
Thaiday's absence will be hard felt by the Seagulls. After all, in three games he scored five tries and kicked eight goals for a total of 38 points.
Some footballers never score that many points in a whole season!
But don't think the Seagulls are upset at Thaiday's advance to the NRL.
"We're all very happy for him," Ballina club president Bill Wilson said.
"Obviously it's a blow to the team but we couldn't stand in his way. "He's a great fellow and we wish him all the best."
Thaiday's manager Mike Newton admitted the Knights were not the only NRL club interested in the livewire utility back.
"There was initial interest from Perth (Super 14 rugby team)," Newton said. "And Milton had been in contact with Arthur Beetson from the Roosters.
"There was also reported interest from other clubs."
But in the end, Thaiday went to Newcastle for the lifestyle.
"We went down there with his wife and his beautiful daughter and we all thought that was as close to home in Lismore as they'd get," Newton said. "Plus he can play professional footy."
Newton said the contract is for one season. "We'll go from there," he said.
"They're keen to keep him longer than that, but the contract is only for the remainder of the year.
"Obviously the Knights have a lot of backline injuries at the moment.
"He's starting off in the Premier League this weekend, but I'd say there is a good chance he will be in first grade the weekend after."
Meanwhile, AAP reported that the opportunity of playing with star halfback Andrew Johns had swayed Thaiday into signing with the Knights.
"I'm very grateful to the Knights for giving me this opportunity and I hope I can make the most of it," he said.
"I've played rugby league virtually all my life and to have the chance to play alongside Andrew Johns holds enormous appeal for me.
"I've really enjoyed my time back at Ballina and I reckon Newcastle will be a great place to bring my family and enjoy my football."