Andrew Battese is one of 11 Ballina first-grade players who have moved on from last year’s grand final team.
Andrew Battese is one of 11 Ballina first-grade players who have moved on from last year’s grand final team.

Seagulls pick up the pieces

LOSING 11 players from last year’s Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final team was always going to make life difficult for Ballina Seagulls in 2011.

They are currently wooden spoon candidates, languishing in second-last position on the NRRRL ladder.

Players, officials and supporters were left scratching their heads at the mass exodus of players over summer.

“There was no club turmoil or anything like that,” club president Max Beecher said. “Everyone seemed to leave around the same time and it created a bit of a snowball effect.”

Dane Clarke, Andrew Moore (Coffs Harbour), Ed Killingbeck (Sydney), Ben Crawford (WA), Andrew Battese (Gold Coast) and Damian Sironen (Melbourne) moved on for work and football commitments.

“They’re scattered all over the place and some are doing really well,” Beecher said.

“We couldn’t pay blokes up front at the start of the season, but we’ve paid everyone now.

“Money was never an issue and we wish all the blokes that have moved on all the best.”

Sironen has gone on to greener pastures, forcing his way into the starting side of the Melbourne Storm under-20s team in the National Youth Competition.

Battese has switched codes and is playing for the Gold Coast Breakers in the Queensland Premier Rugby Union competition. The 22-year-old hopes to get a contract to play rugby in France next year.

Beecher is disappointed they couldn’t retain the services of Kane Montgomery and Dan Gibson who still live in the area.

“Work kept them from fully committing this season, but Dan has played a few games,” he said. “It’s a whole new culture at the club this season.

“A lot of reserve-graders who had been at the club for a long time retired and we got new first and second-grade coaches.

“Don (Dickson) has had some good ideas, but I think he is starting to get frustrated and feeling the pressure.”

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ballina.

Its under-18s team is on top of the ladder and its players have helped fill the void in grade games this season.

“We’re already targeting some of those guys and are looking at ways we can keep them at the club next season,” Beecher said.

“Jason Clarke will be back from injury soon and he is the sort of bloke you can build a team around.”



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