Local league legend to finish career where it all began
RUGBY LEAGUE: A chance to be closer to his four-year-old and to finish his footballing career with the club where he started two decades ago has brought enigmatic front rower Ryan Binge back to the Lower Clarence Magpies nest.
Binge is the first and possibly proudest 2017 signing for the Magpies as the club looks to rebuild and make its way back into the NRRRL First Grade ranks.
The 28-year-old said the chance to play out the twilight of his career in front of fans who got him to the dance in the first place was too good to pass up.
Binge also said an imminent retirement was in the back of his mind as he signed the season-long contract with the Magpies.
"I have only got a season or two left in me before I retire so I thought I would head home to play," Binge said.
"I think we have got the players to get a competitive side together, we have some great young blood rising through the ranks and they are definite first grade players."
Just over six months on from a disappointing pre-season when the club could not field enough numbers for a top grade squad, it has made the first movements toward a prosperous future.
The signing of Binge from Group 2 runners up Grafton Ghosts is a major coup for Lower Clarence with the front rower judged Group 2 Best and Fairest as well as the Ghosts' Best and Fairest this season.
After a season in which the Lower Clarence Under 18 side restored pride in the black and white jersey, club president Darrin Heron is hoping Binge will carry that pride into next season.
"Ryan is a part of our Team of the Century, he is a massive part of what this club is all about. This is a big coup for us," Heron said.
"Now that we have him on board we will look to build a team around him. That is the kind of player he is.
"Ryan is just an honest footballer. He goes out on the field because he just loves to play the game. He plays with his heart."
With his daughter Kira now living on the Gold Coast it will also see him playing at fields closer to her so it will be easier for her to watch her daddy play.
"She means everything to me and loves to come watch me play football," Binge said. "She was a factor in my decision to come home to the Magpies because we will play a lot more up that way."
The hard-hitting forward has led the Magpies as captain in previous seasons and likely could again next year, with Heron happy to leave the decision to him.
The Magpies have tried hard in recent seasons with meagre success in the first grade ranks, but Heron said it could all turn around with a new attitude at the club and Binge on board.
"Our Under 18s put so much pride into the club this year," Heron said. "They travelled every game as part of the Tweed Coast club and never whinged or whined once. They just wanted to play football.
"They got on the field and they did their job and that is what football should be about. Ryan fits perfectly into that mould.
"It will be good to see him put these top teams like Cudgen and Ballina on the back foot every week."
Changing the culture of the club to one of success is also a big issue for the front rower as he plans to lead by example.
"This obviously means a lot to me, it is where I started playing footy when I was eight years old," Binge said.
"I have got to get the culture back at the club, get the players there and attract the right players and that way we can get a good feeling back there."
The Magpies are still on a recruitment drive for 2017 as they scour the league code for a coach and first grade players.
"We are leaving no stone unturned, that is for sure," Heron said.