Skipper all the difference
BYRON Bay soccer captain Shaun Packham has been the Rams' unsung hero this season, but on Saturday he took centre stage.
The stylish defender scored the most important goal in the Rams' history with a scorching 30-metre drive.
It gave Byron Bay its first major premiership after a 1-0 win over Goonellabah in the Far North Coast Tursa Premier League grand final at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
Packham delivered the killer blow late in the first half of a pulsating match that continued to hang in the balance until the final whistle.
Goonellabah hadn't lost to the Rams and after 13 games undefeated, the minor premiers went into the game as firm favourites, but for the first time all season their usually lethal attack failed to score.
Both sides opened brightly, with Ben Andrews having an early chance for Goonellabah and Todd Knaus coming close for the Rams.
Both sweepers, Aaron Richter- Steers (Byron Bay) and John Eakin (Hornets), controlled their defence well and kept clean chances to a minimum, but Goonellabah were guilty of wasting several set-play opportunities around the Rams' box.
Some of the Rams' best chances came when right flanker John Bradbury used his pace and close control to expose some defensive frailties, but his crosses sometimes failed to find the target.
Three minutes before half-time Shaun Packham found himself in centre-field about 30m out.
The Byron Bay skipper unleashed an explosive first-time hit that gave Hornets 'keeper Brett Chaplin no chance as it whistled into the top corner of the net.
After the break Goonellabah coach Renato Cheli brought on striker Matthew Olley to liven up the attack, which was hampered by injury to Golden Boot winner Peter O'Neill.
While Olley, Ben Andrews and O'Neill tried hard to make an impact, the Rams' defence, led by Richter-Steers and Packham, refused to buckle.
Adam Barnes came closest for the Hornets with a surging run, but goalkeeper Kai Connell bravely smothered the ball at his feet, just off the goal-line.
At the other end, Tim Bird and Adam Bostock came close to scoring for the Rams as they tried to kill off the game, but in the end Packham's superb goal was to prove the difference.
After losing their only other grand final appearance in 2001, the joy for some of the senior players such as Bruce Morhaus, Knaus and Richter-Steers was obvious after the full-time whistle, as they celebrated the club's long-awaited first major premiership.
"Losing to Goonellabah in the major semi did us a favour. It hardened us up mentally and after four tough games we were also physically match-hardened, we were ready," coach Peter Ware said.
After coming to the club at the start of the season, Ware has done a superb job to mould the potential of the Rams into results, making them just the third side in more than 50 years to take the title outside Lismore. Casino did it in 1997 and Maclean in 2001.
RICHMOND Rovers have dominated the premier reserve division in recent years and notched their fourth consecutive major premiership with an emphatic 5-1 win over Italo Stars in the grand final on Saturday.
A hat-trick to Ian Gregory earned him the player of the match award, with Beau Weeks and Sean Baker also scoring, as Rovers emphasised the gap between them and the rest of the division.
LENNOX Head will make its debut in the Premier League next season on the crest of a wave of success, after wrapping up the first division premiership double with a 3-1 win over Alstonville in the grand final at Oakes Oval on Saturday.
Captain Paul Kirkland led by example with a player of the match performance, opening the scoring with a clever goal, before Matt Gluyas and Nick Hunter added to the Sharks' tally.
Adam Walo scored a late consolation goal for Villa, but they were a well beaten side by then.
Lennox will now focus on recruiting during the off-season before their first appearance in the premiers under new coach Mark Ambler.
The Sharks had hoped to also take out the first reserve division double as well, but Richmond Rovers' experienced line-up spoiled their party with a 2-1 win.
Chris Matthews scored both goals for Rovers and was named player of the match, while Brendan Ferns scored for the Sharks.
THE second division decider between Lismore Workers and Ballina was a tight contest that went into extra time before a goal from Dave Condon gave Workers a 3-2 win.
Workers goalkeeper Chris Eggersdorf earned the player of the match award with some crucial saves late in the game.
Goonellabah showed good depth in the lower divisions, winning the third and fourth division deciders.
The Hornets stunned third division minor premiers Lismore Thistles with a 5-1 win and wrapped up the double in fourths with a 3-2 victory over Tintenbar.
The Over-35s went to Byron Bay with a 2-0 victory over minor premiers Tintenbar. Mark Shephard and Chris Chakos scored for the Rams, with Shephard named player of the match.