Red Devils muscle in on Ballina party

IT was supposed to be a day of celebration for Ballina but somebody forgot to tell the Byron Bay Red Devils, who hammered their coastal rivals 66-4 in the Retravision Northern League game at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday.

Australian Rugby League representative Doug MacDougall was at Ballina to present a plaque celebrating the role the Ballina area has played in the development of the game locally.

The plaque is one of 180 being presented around the country as part of the centenary celebrations for rugby league.

MacDougall said the plaque presentation recognised not just the contribution Ballina has made to league, but also the role the Richmond area has had in the game's development at a local level.

The Byron Bay players obviously wanted to share in the glory and they set about demolishing their opponents in an awesome display of pace and power.

The Red Devils raced away to a 26-0 half-time lead and went on with it in the second half.

It wasn't until 22 minutes into the second half that Ballina scored.

Byron Bay winger Tom Merrit ran in three tries, as did centre Clarence Kelly.

Merrit's pace left Seagulls fans gasping – and the Ballina players grasping!

It's no wonder the Gold Coast Titans are eyeing him off.

And in an ominous sign for the rest of the competition, Byron Bay fielded a 'new' player off the bench – former Ballina hooker Andrew Battese, who has been playing some games with the Titans' Under-20s and the Tweed Seagulls in the Queensland Cup.

Battesse wasn't assured of a run every weekend on the Tweed so he linked up with the Red Devils. He still could be called up for Titans' Under-20s duties.

Ballina coach Graham Lees said injuries had hit his side hard but praised Byron Bay's well-drilled performance.

Byron coach Nathan Cross was, of course, very happy. He says the pace of his team is their 'X' factor.

When asked if Byron, the competition leaders, had come up against front-runners Grafton Ghosts this season.

“No,” was the answer.

“But they've had a spy with a camera on the hill today, so they're obviously worried about us,” Cross said.

He's right. All clubs should worry about Byron Bay this season.

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