Ballina Seagulls captain and halfback Jess Perry.
Ballina Seagulls captain and halfback Jess Perry. Marc Stapelberg

Perry the pocket dynamo in NRRRL grand final

HE might not be the biggest or most talented but there will be no tougher player than Ballina halfback Jess Perry in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final tomorrow.

The courageous captain will lead the Seagulls out as they attempt to win back-to-back prem- ierships against the Tweed Coast Raiders at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.

Perry, 24, is one of only four players left from the 2013 team that broke a 20-year premiership drought.

He came off the bench at hooker that season but found himself at halfback in 2014 before taking over as captain the following season.

"There was three really good hookers ahead of me and I had to find another position or I might have ended up in reserve grade,” Perry said.

"It took a while but I manufactured myself into a halfback and it worked out well because I was already getting a lot of concussions and head knocks in the middle.

"I'd be lucky to be 70kg and I'll never be the best player in the team breaking tackles or pulling off the big hits.

"But I'll do whatever I can for the team and I try to inspire the guys when they see me hitting the ball up or throwing myself into a tackle; I enjoy being a leader.”

Perry also doubles as the Under-16s coach with his father Al Perry and believes the strong junior base is the backbone of the club's success.

Brian Kelly was part of the 2013 team and now plays in the NRL for Manly while Nick Meaney made his debut at Newcastle this season after he was in the 2014 and 2015 teams.

Current Ballina first-graders Chris Binge, Anthony Colman, Alex Grant, Nick Ritter and Oliver Regan have all played Under-20s at NRL clubs or Queensland Cup in recent years.

The Seagulls also have some of the top players in the NRRRL with hooker Andrew Battese, front-rower Dylan Montgomery, centre Dan Gibson and Perry among its core group.

"I think I get a bit nervous with each grand final and we never take it for granted because there are a lot of old boys around the club that never got one,” Perry said.

"Our Under-18s keep producing and there isn't a year where we don't bring at least two or three of them into first grade.”

Kick-off is 2.45pm.

GRAND FINAL TEAMS

Ballina: Fullback Alex Grant; wingers Liam Anderson, Rhys Riches; centres Dan Gibson, Oliver Regan; five-eighth Kel Sheather; halfback Jess Perry; props Dylan Montgomery, Nicholas Ritter; hooker Andrew Battese; second-rowers Anthony Colman, Justin Shillingsworth; lock Michael Dwane. Bench: Phil Crosby, Matt Painter, Chris Binge, Chad North, Kuyan Roberts-Laurie. Coach: Mick Foster.

Tweed Coast: Fullback Guy Lanston; wingers Daryl Brooks, Justin King; centres Jack O'Brien, Drew Lanston; five-eighth Tahne Robinson; halfback Jared De Thierry; props Luke Campbell, Daniel Ross; hooker Dan Willoughby; second-rowers Kalani Hensby, Jimmy Armstrong; lock Jamie Donaldson. Bench: Scott McLennan, Cale Rowston, Luke Toon, Connor Hickey, Lain Windley, Chris Cameron, Cory Blair. Coach: Brent Kite.

The Northern Star will have rolling coverage online tomorrow with score updates, photos and results through the day.



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