Rovers' golden run continues
AFTER clinching their fifth minor premiership in six years, Richmond Rovers can lay claim to being the most successful club in the modern era of Far North Coast premier league soccer.
Rovers' 1-0 home win over Italo Stars on Friday night in the final round has given them a record unmatched since 1965.
Back in an era when there were far fewer clubs, the now defunct Goonellabah Stars won eight minor premierships in nine years from 1957 to 1965.
But to achieve the feat in today's far more competitive environment, Rovers have set a benchmark that should stand for many years.
Rovers went into the match needing a win to deny Workers the chance of stealing the title.
They came up against a determined Stars outfit that was looking to repeat its first-round upset.
While Stars showed plenty of grit, Rovers' pace and ball movement allowed them to play much of the game on the attack, with the winning goal coming just before the break.
Fittingly, it was one of their best players all season in Luke McWaide who pounced on a loose ball to hit a curling shot, giving Stars goalkeeper Ben Perry no chance.
But Perry played a vital role in keeping Stars in the game early in the second half, denying McWaide from the penalty spot with a spectacular double save.
While Stars searched for an equaliser, Rovers' experienced backline remained watertight and they went on to celebrate yet another title.
"It was as much a relief as anything," Rovers coach Brian Bugden said.
In his first year at the helm, Bugden has built on Rovers' traditional game, making them a more fluent side that will now focus on the premiership double.
"While we like to attack as much as we can, the cornerstone to the side has been Russell Dent and McWaide in midfield, along with our backline, Joel Saye, Sean Baker - who's been our quiet achiever - Adam Gray and Jake Heffernan," Bugden said.
Rovers will now have next week off before facing the winner of the major preliminary semi-final between Workers and Goonellabah the following week.
Workers cemented second place and the home ground advantage in the semi with a 2-1 away win over Byron Bay, with the goals coming from Bill Latimer and Paddy Kable.
The Rams scored a late consolation penalty from Aaron Richter-Steers but knowing they were certain to finish fourth looked to be saving themselves for their elimination semi at home against Lismore Thistles.
Richmond Rovers 43, Lismore Workers 42, Goonellabah 39, Byron Bay 30, Lismore Thistles 29, Alstonville 26, Lennox Head 20, Italo Stars 13, Casino 10, Ballina 9.