Star breaks 21-year drought
By JIM CHALLENOR AFTER 21 years in the Far North Coast men's A-grade hockey wilderness, Northern Star came back with avengance on Saturday afternoon, riding the 'Mark Harris Express' to a 5-0 grand final victory over Ballina.
The premiership couldn't have come at a better time with the club celebrating its 80th year.
Like a one-man tornado, Harris showed why he played 10 years in the Australian Hockey League for NSW.
His well-honed skills came to the fore at Hepburn Park, Goonellabah, as Star tore the heart out of Ballina's usually settled midfield.
Northern Star player/coach Bob Barrett directed his team well from midfield and found great support from Thomas Vantaggiato, James Harmon, Mark Albertini and Brad Hassett.
It was there that the game was won and lost. Ballina did not give up without a fight, showing their customary toughness and ability to absorb pressure in defence for most of the first half.
Wayne and Tony Porter, Brett Crawford, goalkeeper Josh Hanley and Neil Chaseling did well until Star were awarded a penalty stroke in the 27th minute, which Vantaggiato clinically converted.
The 10 minutes either side of half-time proved decisive. Star scored again through Harris (29m pc), Ballina temporarily lost Crawford to suspension just before half-time and Daniel Riley dislocated his shoulder.
After the break, Ballina had what looked to be a goal denied, which sucked their resolve.
While Jake Baldry, Wayne Porter and Shaun Arundell maintained their cool disposition and workrate they failed to get on top.
Ballina were unable to muster their customary support around the ball, robbing them of many attacking chances.
Ballina did apply some pressure in the second half but Star's bustle upset the seasiders' timing.
The Northern Star defence of Ryan McGuiness, Daryl Hughes and goalkeeper Aaron Head maintained a clean slate.
Goals from Ashley Waring (59m fg) and Harris (50m fg, 70min fg) blew out the scoreline, with Mitchell Carter, Chris McGuiness, Vantaggiato and Albertini adding fire to the Star attack.
On accepting the Chris Buchanan Medal for best on field, Harris acknowledged his connection to the club that supported his development as a junior.
He said his passion for the game had come from club stalwarts and grandparents Frank and Beryl Curry.
Harris would need a long career to match Frank, who played for Star well into his 70s. , Entertaining game
IN the reserve grade grand final, Northern Star defeated Coraki 2-1 in an entertaining game. Star took control early, scoring goals through Phil Hancock and Simon West before the opposition could break its 'duck'.
Coraki had the better of the attack for most of the game, but Star's defence proved too good.
Perry Thomas scored the goal for Coraki.
In B-grade, East Lismore defeated North Lismore 2-1 in a display that reflected the excellent standard of hockey in the B-grade competition all year.
Easts had the better of the attack throughout but the North Lismore defence deflected most chances.
Jeff Campbell and Brad Heard scored for Easts, while Jamie Eyles found the net for Norths.
In C-grade, Alstonville prevailed after several periods of extra time to account for a defiant Ballina 3-2.
Having taken the minor premiership two years in a row, this major premiership finally gives Alstonville some return for their consistency.
The Alstonville goals came from Steve Kaehler (two) and Myles White. Rob Ward and Eric Littler scored the goals for Ballina.