Grafton Ghosts and Byron Bay Red Devils will battle it out in Retravision Northern League on Sunday at Grafton for the right to host the 2008 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final.
The sides have met only once this season, with Ghosts beating the Red Devils 19-16 in round 15 at Byron Bay on July 27.
Byron had the better of the first half in that match and appeared set for victory, but the Ghosts hit back with a dominant second-half performance.
Ghosts are going into the match after a two-week break. They finished as minor premiers and had last weekend off while Byron Bay beat beat Lismore Marist Brothers 30-22 in the qualifying semi-final, and Mullumbimby Giants ended Tweed Coast Raiders’ season with a 36-30 win at Mullumbimby.
The Ghosts obviously picked Byron as a major threat to their premiership chances early in the competition, and when Byron Bay thrashed Ballina at Ballina in round 11 on June 29, Grafton had a man at the ground video-taping Byron’s performance — an event which didn’t go unnoticed by Byron Bay coach Nathan Cross.
A win on Sunday will see Ghosts play their first grand final since 2002, when the Dean Calloway-coached Grafton beat Marist Brothers 22-20 in the decider.
For Byron, it’s been much longer: the Red Devils had a golden period in 1995 and 1996, when teams coached by Gary Weston took successive premierships.
Since then there have been some lean times for the club, but this season the club has a good forward pack and some lightning-fast backs and they’ve been seen as a premiership contender all through the year.
Ghosts aren’t a team of big-name players, but they are a well-drilled and cohesive unit, and coach Col Speed can take the credit for that.
In this weekend’s other semi-final, Lismore Marist Brothers and defending premiers Mullumbimby Giants face sudden-death in the minor semi-final at Crozier Field, Lismore, on Saturday.
The sides have met twice this season for a win each: Brothers beat Mullum 18-10 at Mullum in round eight, but the Giants squared the ledger with an 18-6 win in Lismore in round 13.
Far North Coaster isn’t going to make any predictions; the results in both semi-finals could go down to the bounce of the ball or a lucky break!
Meanwhile, in reserve grade, there will be much interest in the performance of Evans Head in Saturday’s minor semi against Cudgen.
Evans Head announced this week that they were looking at fielding a first-grade team next season.
Given the growth of population in Evans, like all our coastal centres, there’s no reason why they can’t become competitive within a few years.
Hopefully, the NRRRL management will give their bid serious thought.
- Minor semi-final, Saturday, August 30, Crozier Field, Lismore:
2pm: Under-18s, Mullumbimby v Grafton Rhinos.
3.25pm: Reserve grade, Cudgen v Evans Head.
5pm: 1st grade, Marist Brothers v Mullumbimby.
- Major semi-final, Sunday, August 31, McGuren Park, Grafton:
11.30am: Under-18s, Tweed Coast v South Tweed.
12.55pm: Reserve grade: Mullumbimby v Grafton Rhinos.
2.50pm: Grafton Ghosts v Byron Bay.