Hammond's one-pointer puzzles coach
NORTHERN United halfback Willie Hammond heard someone calling “field goal” 15 minutes before time in the Dirrawongs' 21-18 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League semi-final win against the Grafton Ghosts on Saturday.
With two left on the tackle count, and United in an attacking position about 40m out from Grafton's try-line, Hammond stepped back from dummy half and calmly potted the one-pointer.
Only trouble was, the person that called for the field goal wasn't United coach Chris Binge.
In fact, Binge was expecting him to kick into the in-goal and either score a try or force another set of six.
“I asked him about it after the game and he said he heard someone call for a field goal, so when he got the opportunity, he took it,” Binge said.
“I said to him 'what were you thinking?' and he said, 'to be quite honest, I don't know'.
“We were only two points up at the time and it is one of those things you think is good after you have won the game.”
It must have been a spectator in the crowd at Crozier Field that called for the field goal attempt, or perhaps one of Hammond's Northern United team-mates, but at least it gave the home team a small buffer, as the Ghosts tried desperately to score a try to win the match.
The Dirrawongs had to survive wave after wave of Grafton attacks camped against their own try-line.
It's exactly the sort of grafting win that Binge knows will stand his normally free-flowing team in good stead over the remainder of the finals series.
“Our defence stuck to their guns, and scrambled well at times, and were in the right places at the right time,” Binge said.
“Everyone knows that we can score points but we also showed on Saturday that we can defend.
“We talked about maintaining our discipline during the week and I thought the players concentrated, were patient and didn't give away any silly penalties.”
Binge praised the efforts of centre Clarence Kelly who, in his second week back after a three-match suspension, scored a runaway 70m try. He also highlighted the performance of captain Alwyn Roberts.
“Out of all the teams I've ever coached I've never coached a more dedicated captain,” Binge said.
“The captain led from the front and made the tackles that needed to be made. He was the best player on the paddock.”
With the possible exception of try-scoring machine Fred Waters, who is struggling with a knee injury, United is expected to be at full-strength for this weekend's preliminary final.
The Dirrawongs will regain centre Chris Swan after the centre served out a one-match suspension for a spear tackle.