Bye bye Burringbar -- Coach Wilkins signs off after tough year

By TANIA PHILLIPS

THE Burringbar Bandits' single season foray into the Football Far North Coast Premier League is over, with the team narrowly missing a win in their final match on Saturday at Bangalow.

Taking on Bangalow, their rivals from first division last year, the Bandits went down 4-3 in a game that went right down to the wire.

Like most of their Premier League season, it wasn't an easy day for the Bandits, who were reduced to 10 men late in the match, with captain Mick Williams being sent off for dissent.

"Look we did pretty well we had four backing up out of reserve grade," coach Grant Wilkins said, in what has been a season-long lament about the club's lack of depth a major contributor to it finishing bottom of the ladder. Wilkins said going to premier league had been a culture shock for the Bandits.

"It was a lot tougher then we expected," he said.

"Mind you it would have been good if all the players still had a bit of heart (by the end of the season).

"The boys turning up week after week to training have done a brilliant job."

Known for his sense of humour, Wilkins said the club had managed to come out of the past two seasons with two titles each year.

"Last year it was the premiership and the first Tweed team in premier league, and this time it was becoming the first team to forfeit in premier league and winning the woodenspoon," he said. Wilkins, club president and coach, stepped down from both roles at the weekend.

"I have been coaching for the past 15-years or so and every year it has been two or three teams," he said.

"It's time for a nice long rest."

On Saturday both teams defied the driving rain throughout the first half at Bangalow to score all seven goals by half-time, but when the weather cleared for the second half neither team could find the net. Burringbar scored first through striker Josh Chapman 10 minutes into the game before Aryan Freriechs scored two quick goals for Bangalow.

A second Josh Chapman goal just a few minutes later saw the score all locked up and then mid-fielder Vincent Steptoe scored a solid goal to put the Bandits back in front.

Bluedogs striker Sebastian Bell finished an exciting half with two goals to take the score to 4-3. The Bangalow win was marred by a broken nose for Ricky Small and bad ankle ligament damage for Joel Rudgley although with the team finishing seventh (their best finish in premier league) the players have the entire off-season to recover.

Burringbar, also thrown out of the play-off for the spare premier league spot, now heads back down to the first division competition, with Pottsville and Lismore Thistles on their way up. Meanwhile Byron Bay has secured third place and knocked Lennox head out of the semi-finals after a late goal from Jonathan Pierce gave the Rams a nail biting 3-2 away win over Lennox on Saturday.

Minor premiers Richmond Rovers look well primed for their semi-final campaign after a hard fought 3-1 win over Maclean at Woodburn. Goonellabah scraped into the semi-finals by the narrowest of margins after grinding out a one-all draw with Lismore Workers. A one-all away draw with Ballina was enough for Italo Stars to secure second place and with it the home advantage for the major preliminary semi-final against Byron Bay. Final premier league ladder: Richmond Rovers 40, Italo Stars 34, Byron Bay 33, Maclean 30, Goonellabah 28, Lennox Head 28, Bangalow 24, Ballina 21, Workers 11, Burringbar 4.



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