Rats re-live golden era
IN THE modern era, winning one or even two premierships is tough. Imagine winning four on the one day. "Tell 'em, they're dreaming!", as Dale Kerrigan would say.
Well, back in 1991, in Lismore, in the Far North NSW Rugby competition, all four grades were won by the University of New England, Northern Rivers (now Southern Cross University) "Gold Rats".
What a year it was! For those with a music bent, The Horses by Daryl Braithwaite was top of the charts.
Much like any other year, the Gold Rats rolled up to Uni not really knowing what their playing stocks would be. Sure there were serious students (mostly "mature agers") but most were attending training for the "experience", not to win a premiership.
The fantastic thing with Rugby as a code, is that personalities are the left at the front door. It's very much what you produce on the field that matters. And in 1991 there was an almighty (though definitely not heavenly!) influx of talent.
The club had only mixed fortunes in recent years, losing grand finals in 1987 and 1989 to Coffs Harbour.
In 1991 the club's die-hard mentor, the late Maurie Ryan ("I'll buy 'em, you get 'em"), always had plenty of advice. The main oval is named in his honour.
The first grade coach was a Pom, big Dave Arthur, with a funny haircut but abundant enthusiasm. In the trenches were your typical types you get at Uni clubs - environmental students, business types, exercise science types and a small mix of locals.
As the year unfolded, the level of seriousness and enthusiasm just grew and grew with the numerous wins all grades were enjoying. Remember this was a time of no player payments, all volunteer coaches and great bus trips.
The Under 19's (aka Baby Rats) grand final win on that famous day, was very much in doubt until the very last seconds of the match.
From that moment on all the Gold Rats' had a supreme will and fight to win. For the record - Thirds won against Ballina (17 - 13), Seconds won against Lismore City (16 - 6) then Firsts won against Ballina (33 to 6) - a five-try romp!
What a day! What a night! What a recovery and what a mad Monday! One of standout players of the First team, Robert (Hippy) Hurst had made a bullish prediction - "if we win, I'll drink at the Clubhouse for a week!" And he did.
At the 2016 Byron Sevens on October 15/16 the majority of that 1991 team will all assemble to reminisce and regale in what in reality is a formidable achievement.