The Retravision Northern League minor premiership could be decided this weekend when the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition’s leading two teams, Grafton Ghosts and Byron Bay Red Devils, clash at Red Devil Park, Byron Bay, on Sunday.
The two teams have swapped top spot this season and at this stage, Ghosts lead by point from Byron.
A win to the Ghosts on Sunday will put them three clear of Byron Bay.
Alternatively, a Red Devils win would put them back on top by a point, and facing a slightly easier run into the semi-finals.
Byron Bay’s opponents in the final three rounds are Tweed Coast at Byron, South Tweed at Byron, and, in a quirk of the draw, South Tweed again in the final round, this time on the Tweed.
Ghosts’ final games are against Marist Brothers, Casino RSM and Grafton Rhinos. Fortunately for them, all three games are at Grafton, but they will have not forgotten that the Rhinos beat them 20-14 in round eight — Grafton Ghosts’ first loss of the season.
Byron Bay will go into the match stung by last Sunday’s loss to Kyogle at Kyogle, and no doubt coach Nathan Cross hammered out any complacency in the Red Devils’ ranks at training this week.
In other weekend games:
- Lismore Marist Brothers host the Kyogle Turkeys at Oakes Oval on Sunday, and it should be a great clash. The Turkeys are two points out of the top five and need to keep winning, and will be on a high after last week’s win over Byron. Kyogle coach Wise Kativerata will no doubt relish the challenge against his former club. Brothers are equal third with Lower Clarence and were stung last weekend by last-placed Ballina, going down 20-8 at Ballina.
- Mullumbimby have got their premiership defence back on track in recent weeks but will face a tough road trip to Grafton, where they take on the Rhinos.
- There’s a local derby on the Tweed, with South Tweed hosting Tweed Coast. It’s a must-win game for Tweed Coast, who share fifth spot with Mullumbimby.
- Lower Clarence host Cudgen and should win, especially if centre Brenton Cochrane repeats his ‘blinder’ of last week, when he scored four triesin the Magpies’ 30-24 win over Murwillumbah.
- Was Ballina’s upset win over Brothers a fluke? On Sunday the Seagulls fly west to Casino, where it’s never easy going.
Points: Grafton Ghosts 24, Byron Bay 23, Marist Brothers 20, Lower Clarence 20, Tweed Coast Raiders 19, Mullumbimby 19, Kyogle 17, Grafton Rhinos 14, Casino 9, South Tweed 9, Ballina 8, Cudgen 8, Murwillumbah 6.
SATURDAY 26 JULY
- Evans Head v Murwillumbah (Reserve Grade only), Stan Payne Oval, Evans Head. Kick-off 2.30pm.
SUNDAY 27 JULY
- South Tweed v Tweed Coast, 2 grades, noon start, Dave Byrne Field, South Tweed. First grade kick-off 1.30pm.
- Marist Brothers v Kyogle, 3 grades, noon start, Oakes Oval, Lismore. First grade kick-off 2.45pm.
- Grafton Rhinos v Mullumbimby, 3 grades, noon start, McKittrick Park, South Grafton. First grade kick-off 2.45pm.
- Byron Bay v Grafton Ghosts, 2 grades, 1pm start, Red Devil Park, Byron Bay. First grade kick-off 2.45pm.
- Lower Clarence v Cudgen, 3 Grades, noon start, Yamba Sports Complex. First grade kick-off 2.45pm.
- Casino RSM v Ballina, 3 grades, noon start, Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino. First grade kick-off 2.45pm.
Round 16 draw: Grafton Ghosts v Marist Brothers, Kyogle v Casino RSM, Ballina v Grafton Rhinos, Mullumbimby v Lower Clarence, Cudgen v Murwillumbah, Tweed Coast v Byron Bay, South Tweed v Evans Head.
Round 17 draw: Grafton Ghosts v Casino RSM, Grafton Rhinos v Lower Clarence, Lower Clarence v Ballina, Murwillumbah v Mullumbimby, Evans Head v Cudgen, Marist Brothers v Tweed Coast, Byron Bay v South Tweed.
Round 18 draw: Grafton Rhinos v Grafton Ghosts, Kyogle v Lower Clarence, Ballina v Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby v Cudgen, Casino RSM v Tweed Coast, South Tweed v Byron Bay, Marist Brothers v Evans Head.