Fairytale end for Marist Brothers in NRRRL
AN UNDEFEATED season was a fairytale finish no one could have predicted for Marist Brothers reserve grade team 12 months ago in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.
The Rams were pushed to the limit before a late try to lock Luke Campbell sealed a 20-12 win over Cudgen in the grand final at Ballina on Sunday.
Campbell had come back to play one last season with his younger brother Jake while Brothers sent hard-working lock Rod McFarlane out a winner in his final game.
There was plenty of talent in the Rams team and they played some entertaining rugby league throughout the season.
"We wanted to show people that reserve grade isn't full of grubs looking to fight or play dirty," coach Matt Barber said.
"A thing that stood out for me was some of the compliments we got from rival teams and supporters throughout the year on the way we played the game.
"To go through undefeated was totally unexpected and not something we spoke about even later in the season.
"We had some good old heads in the team, Luke Campbell was a first grade Group 1 Player of the Year many years ago and Rod played in the Australian University team.
"Some young guys came into the team this year and they were able to learn a lot from these blokes."
Halfback John Campbell picked up man-of-the-match honours from the NRRRL in the grand final while front-rowers Darryl Butcher and Tony Gava led from the front.
Some players in the team came back from first grade this year including five-eighth Wally Kelly, second-rower Matt Tickle, winger Harry Brown and Butcher.
"I wouldn't say that's how we won it, it was all about getting the balance right and giving the young guys a go," Barber said.
"Tony Gava and John Campbell were co-captains and they did a great job in bringing the team together.
"John is a pretty well respected veterinarian around Lismore and he can be a difficult bloke to coach.
"Mainly just because of the nature of his job and if he gets called away for an emergency but he's been a very good player for a number of years now.
"We were also lucky with injuries and that can crucify a team, especially if first grade lose players.