NRRRL history in the making
The Dirawongs disposed of Mullumbimby 22-14 in the preliminary final, which was no mean feat considering it was played in Mullum’s fortress amid the cane fields at Les Donnelly Field.
Moments before the final siren Binge received quiet congratulations from fellow NRRRL coaches Brian Battese (Ballina) and David Krause (Marist Brothers).
It was a sign of bipartisan solidarity as Northern United now move on to meet Lower Clarence in the premiership decider at Maclean on Sunday.
But Binge was not thinking too far ahead as he basked in the adulation of United well-wishers who flooded the field soon after the siren sounded.
“I know we haven’t won a grand final but this is massive achievement for our club and it is massive achievement for these boys,” Binge said.
“To be honest, we have learnt a hell of a lesson this year and particularly in the past three weeks.
“I don’t think there is any team in the history of this competition, or any competition, that can not only make a semi-final but to be in a grand final (in its first year).
“We are one step away from achieving the biggest thing in any competition, but we know what is ahead of us in the next week and we can go home and work hard towards that.”
Although the final scoreline yesterday was relatively close, United was never seriously challenged after leading 16-4 at half-time.
The Dirawongs’ unnerving ability to convert even the merest of half breaks into four-pointers was exemplified by the club’s second try.
It involved NRRRL try-scoring record-holder Fred Waters, who stepped around his opposite number about 40 metres out, kicked ahead and, as the ball bounced dangerously close to going over the sideline, tapped it inside into the waiting hands of fullback Roy Bell, who sprinted clear to score the try.
Waters was later helped from the field with bad concussion, which worried the waiting medical staff as he vomited and struggled to stay awake.
He was whisked straight to hospital for treatment and to remain under observation.
While the Dirawongs scored some miraculous tries, it was their under-rated defence that paved the way for the win, with the talented Giants backline struggling to break the line.
“We have worked hard on our defence for the past couple of weeks,” Binge said.
“We knew that we had it in us; it was just finding the right time to pull it out and games like today, you need to pull it out.”
Although the Giants scored the first try, and the first try of the second half, coach Wayne Cullen said his team had struggled to put pressure on the Dirawongs.
“They are a side that you have to create pressure to be successful against them and we didn’t create enough pressure; it was too stop-start for us,” Cullen said.
“The boys played until the finish. It was just a shame that we didn’t execute a few things the way we would have liked and that is just the way things go in preliminary final football.
“They played well, they kept their composure until the end, and good luck to them, I hope they go well in the grand final.”
Cullen predicted this weekend’s decider would be a good ‘spectator’s grand final’.
“It will be a different grand final from what we are used to,” he said.
“Both sides like to throw the ball around so it is going to be a grand final where a lot of points are going to scored.”
NORTHERN UNITED 22 (Clarence Kelly 2, Anthony Robinson, Roy Bell tries; Roy Bell 3 goals) d MULLUMBIMBY 14 (Corey Poole, Chase Nelson, Chad Grant tries; Dwayne Mosley goal). Half-time: 16-4.
Reserve grade: Evans Head 44 d Ballina 12.
Under-18s: Ballina 20 d Northern United 10.