Our year in rugby league: Seagulls fly higher than ever

BALLINA created club history by going back-to-back for the first time when they won the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final this year.

Casino and Kyogle had big seasons, making the semi-finals for the first time in a number of years.

Six Northern Rivers players were selected for the NSW Country Bulls after standout performances in the second-tier NSW Country Championships.

Our year in league:

There were 10 teams in the NRRRL this season with Byron Bay and Murwillumbah also making the semi-finals.

Marist Brothers, Northern United, Mullumbimby, Evans Head and Lower Clarence finished outside the top five.

The teams that made the NRRRL

BACK-TO-BACK: The Ballina Seagulls celebrate clinching a second consecutive premiership with their 17-6 win over Byron Bay in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final.
BACK-TO-BACK: The Ballina Seagulls celebrate clinching a second consecutive premiership with their 17-6 win over Byron Bay in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final. Nolan Verheij-Full

Ballina

THE Seagulls were always going to be competition favourites when they maintained most of their 2013 premiership team.

They had eight players in the Northern Rivers representative team and another four play for NSW Country this year.

Ballina had their fair share of injuries but depth and the quality of players they had in the team was enough for them to take out the premiership again.

GREAT GAME: Byron Bay fullback Billy Goldsmith was sensational at fullback when he side beat Kyogle in NRRRL yesterday. They will now play Ballina in the grand final on Sunday.
GREAT GAME: Byron Bay fullback Billy Goldsmith was sensational at fullback when he side beat Kyogle in NRRRL yesterday. They will now play Ballina in the grand final on Sunday.

Byron Bay

THE Red Devils came good at the right end of the season to make their first grand final since 2008.

The emergence of some talented juniors and weekly standout performances from the likes of prop Simon Kelly and second-rower James Griffiths helped take them to the grand final.

ATTACK MODE: Kyogle player Ben Studders runs up to the Ballina line during a game at Kingsford Smith Park in Ballina.
ATTACK MODE: Kyogle player Ben Studders runs up to the Ballina line during a game at Kingsford Smith Park in Ballina. Marc Stapelberg

Kyogle

CONFIDENCE was high at Kyogle this year and they proved they could beat anyone on their day with wins over Ballina and Murwillumbah.

They finished the competition rounds third and hosted the preliminary final at New Park.

Prop Mat Cameron was a handy addition but they missed second-rower Travis Falls when he was ruled out of the preliminary final with injury.

WRAPPED UP: Magpies debutant Ben Williams has his run stopped by the Murwillumbah Mustangs.
WRAPPED UP: Magpies debutant Ben Williams has his run stopped by the Murwillumbah Mustangs.

 

Murwillumbah

THE Mustangs were sitting nicely mid-season and looked on course for a fourth consecutive grand final appearance.

However, a loss in the last round saw them miss out on the minor premiership and then they were knocked out of the semi-finals in straight sets, beaten by Kyogle and Byron Bay at home.

Sam O'Dea, Kobi Mills, Damian Quinn and Caleb Howell made the Northern Rivers representative team.

Casino

RECRUITED well and had one of the best backlines in the competition in 2014.

There was plenty of excitement at the Cougars when club junior Matt King returned to play twice during the season after a decorated career in the NRL and English Super League.

Corey Torrens played most positions in the backline and Todd Johnson excelled every week.

 

Marist Brothers

MISSED the semi-finals for the first time since 2011 and were well behind the fifth-placed Casino Cougars by12 competition points.

The Rams lacked speed out wide and experience in the forwards.

Some talented players from the Under-18s had a taste of first grade through the season.

 

Northern United

HAD a tough year rebuilding after the likes of Roy Bell, Anthony Robinson, Evan Hickling and Corey Torrens defected to Casino.

Injuries to key players affected the make-up of the squad with veteran Don Walker turning back the clock with some gutsy performances.

Les Roberts, Djaan Jarrett and Tyson Binge were the Dirawongs' best players.

 

Mullumbimby

THE Giants probably deserved to finish higher than they did as they hung in there with the top sides most weeks.

They just lacked that bit of extra spark needed in the backline to trouble the better teams.

Dan Woods, Grant Cook, Jacob Wood and Josh Castellano were the standouts.

Evans Head

THE Bombers were another team that could have won a couple more games, but it wasn't to be.

Eli and Josh Cook led the way in the forwards while Jack Wythes had a big season in the centres, playing every game.

If they could add two or three quality players to the backline they would be set for a better 2015.

Lower Clarence Magpie Grant Brown during their Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) match against Byron Bay Red Devils.
Lower Clarence Magpie Grant Brown during their Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) match against Byron Bay Red Devils. Matthew McInerney

 

Lower Clarence

ANOTHER tough year for the Magpies, who did not win a game.

They came close to pulling off a win at home against Evans Head in the last round, going down 18-13.

Team of the Year

  • Fullback: Brett Kelly (Ballina)
  • Winger: Bill King (Byron Bay)
  • Winger: Caleb Howell (Murwillumbah)
  • Centre: Michael Thomas (Ballina)
  • Centre: Todd Johnson (Casino)
  • Five-eighth: Andrew Battese (Ballina)
  • Halfback: Simon Pederson (Kyogle)
  • Prop: Dylan Montgomery (Ballina)
  • Prop: Robby Miles (Ballina)
  • Hooker: Paul O'Neill (Marist Brothers)
  • Second-rower: Travis Falls (Kyogle)
  • Second-rower: Simon Perkins (Ballina)
  • Lock: Kane Montgomery (Ballina)
  • Bench: Hemi Mullen (Byron Bay)
  • Bench: Mat Cameron (Kyogle)
  • Bench: Sam O'Dea (Murwillumbah)
  • Bench: Kobi Mills (Murwillumbah)
  • Bench: Anthony Robinson (Casino)


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