Seagulls swoop nets Waratah
By STEVE SPINKS
FORMER NSW Waratahs rugby union player Milton Thaiday has returned to where it all began and will play for the Ballina Seagulls in this year's Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition.
Thaiday was a surprise spectator at the NSW training session held at Lismore's Crozier Field last Thursday.
He chatted with his old team-mates including Lote Tuqiri and Matt Rogers and looked fit enough to be training with the Super 12 side.
Waratahs captain Chris Whittaker was particularly pleased to see Thaiday turn up.
"It was really good to see him," Whittaker said.
"We hadn't seen him for a few months ... it's good to see him doing well."
The 24-year-old made his name on the Northern Rivers playing for the now defunct Lismore Workers team in 2001 under coach Chris Binge. Thaiday was also The Northern Star Player-of-the Year in 2001.
He was sensationally offered a training contract with the Waratahs on the strength of his performances with the Lismore side.
After one year in union, Thaiday became a regular squad member and played a number of Super 12 matches at fullback and wing.
Wallaby coach Eddie Jones had big raps on the speedster when he visited Lismore only months before the 2003 World Cup.
However, last year the wheels fell off and the gifted footballer was released from his contract with NSW so he could concentrate on his battle to overcome alcoholism.
Six months into his rehabilitation program and Thaiday has decided he wants to get back onto the football field.
He moved with his family back to the Northern Rivers and has reunited with Binge who is coaching the Seagulls this season.
"It's almost been two steps forward and one back," Binge told The Northern Star.
"But he's got himself a full-time job and hopefully next year he can force his way into the West Australia Super 14 team."
Binge believes Thaiday will probably stay with professional rugby union if he can.
"I think he considers he has unfinished business with rugby," Binge said.
"But who's to say that if he sets the competition alight that he won't walk away with a rugby league contract at the end of the year.
"At the end of the day he has to make the best decision for him and his family."
Thaiday's partner Ruth will study at Lismore's Southern Cross University this year.
Binge is not sure what position Thaiday will occupy once the season starts.
The Seagulls' first trial game is against Kawana Waters on February 20.