NEW CLUB RECORD: Ballina celebrates its third straight NRRRL grand final win.
NEW CLUB RECORD: Ballina celebrates its third straight NRRRL grand final win. Cathy Adams

NRRRL's 2015 highlights and our pick for team of the year

BALLINA created more club history this season winning its third consecutive premiership in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.

The Seagulls lost no less than 10 of its premiership-winning team from 2014 but were far too strong in the finals.

Murwillumbah were the minor premiers but were blown off the park 34-6 in the grand final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.

Evans Head were the big improvers this year making it as far as the preliminary final.

It was the first time they had played finals since 2011.

Cudgen returned to the NRRRL from the Gold Coast competition and finished fifth.

It was a tight finish this season with three capable sides in Casino, Byron Bay and Marist Brothers missing out on semi-finals.

However, Kyogle, Mullumbimby and Lower Clarence all struggled.

How they fared:

NEW CLUB RECORD: Ballina celebrates its third straight NRRRL grand final win.
NEW CLUB RECORD: Ballina celebrates its third straight NRRRL grand final win. Cathy Adams

Ballina

Ballina had a slow start to the season with new combinations but they eventually found their mojo.

The Seagulls won eight straight to finish the season with the premiership.

Fullback Nikko Roberts returned from Brisbane while second-rower Dan Gibson dominated in the finals.

Gibson picked up player-of-the-match honours in the grand final.

Murwillumbah Mustangs coach Damien Quinn. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News
Murwillumbah Mustangs coach Damien Quinn. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News John Gass

Murwillumbah

Murwillumbah flexed its muscle by taking out the minor premiership after losing only three games in the competition rounds.

The Mustangs have played in four of the past five grand finals but have not been able to win one since 2012.

It is the end of an era with lock Damien Quinn hanging up the boots.

WE DID IT: Bombers ecstatic over a win against Northern United in Lismore.
WE DID IT: Bombers ecstatic over a win against Northern United in Lismore. Kayarna Tregidgo

Evans Head

The Bombers caught a lot of people by surprise this season as they surged towards the finals.

Halfback Trevor Bolt had his best season in the NRRRL with front-rower and co-coach Tim Tregidgo also back in the fold.

Most of the team were local juniors and got their first taste of finals football.

Northern United

The Dirawongs recruited well and had one of its best seasons since coming into the competition in 2009.

Lock Alwyn Roberts led the way along with Jirra Breckenridge and Alwyn Roberts in the forwards.

United beat Ballina, Murwillumbah and Evans Head during the season.

Cudgen

The Hornets made a late charge towards the end of the season and scraped into the finals by a single point.

Halfback Jake Sands scored 10 tries and was the highest pointscorer in the competition with 168 points.

Casino

The Cougars looked like the team to beat at certain parts of the season.

They had big wins at home against Ballina and Murwillumbah before a disastrous finish.

Casino lost its last four games with coach Troy McLean finishing up after three seasons at the club.

RED DEVILS: Byron Bay take it to the opposition. Photo: Tayla Clorley Photo Contributed
RED DEVILS: Byron Bay take it to the opposition. Photo: Tayla Clorley Photo Contributed Contributed

Byron Bay

It was an inconsistent year for the Red Devils after making the 2014 grand final.

They lost some key players and struggled without front-rower Simon Kelly who missed the second half of the season.

Second-rower Joe Gordon had a good season along with fullback Brad Lees and wingers Toby Ryan and Hayden Rosenbaum.

Marist Brothers

The young Rams had plenty of talent but never quite got it together this year.

They proved to be a bogey side for Casino and Evans Head late in the season.

Brothers were still are chance of making semi-finals until Byron Bay got the better of them before the final two rounds.

Hooker Paul O'Neill, lock Jack Durheim and front-rower Darryl Butcher toiled hard.

Mullumbimby

It was another tough year for the Giants.

Mullum has plenty of work to do before it becomes competitive again.

Wayde Kelly, Jack Govett and Todd Arthur finished the year strong.

Kyogle

The Turkeys were always going to struggle this year after losing the bulk of its 2014 team.

However, the amount of injures they had only made matters worse.

Five-eighth Ben Studders was at the top of the casualty list with a broken neck.

Veteran lock Don Walker and winger Lachlan Crawter played all 15 games.

Lower Clarence

The Magpies were plagued by the same problems as previous seasons and collected another wooden spoon.

They celebrated 100 years in 2015 and welcomed front-rower Ryan Binge back to the fold.

Binge was also named in the Magpies team of the century.

MITCH'S TEAM OF THE YEAR

Fullback: Corey Torrens (Casino)

A gamebreaker that was sorely missed by the Cougars when he got injured late in the season.

He started the year at five-eighth and only got better when he moved to fullback

Winger: Chris King (Northern United)

Played nearly everywhere in the backline this season.

He scored 18 tries and was co-captain of the Northern Rivers representative team.

Winger: Brad Fletcher (Evans Head)

Moved back to the wing this season and was among the Bombers best.

Took pressure off his forwards and ran the ball hard.

Byron's Scott Stapleton making a run down the line while Michael Thomas tries to stop him during the Ballina v Byron Bay NRRRL Grand final. September 14, 2014.
Byron's Scott Stapleton making a run down the line while Michael Thomas tries to stop him during the Ballina v Byron Bay NRRRL Grand final. September 14, 2014. Nolan Verheij-Full

Centre: Michael Thomas (Ballina)

It was his second year back at Ballina and he only got better this season.

Equal top tryscorer in the competition and was solid in defence

Centre: Jayden Coldwell Jacky (Ballina)

A change of scenery worked wonders this year for Coldwell Jackey.

He scored 17 tries from his 16 games this season.

Five-eighth: Alwyn Roberts (Northern United)

Moved between lock and five-eighth during the season.

Roberts is a big reason the Dirawongs made the finals for the first time since 2011.

Halfback: Trevor Bolt (Evans Head)

The mercurial halfback was in a class of his own this season.

Bolt had his best season in NRRRL and was equal top tryscorer with King and Thomas

Prop: Dylan Montgomery (Ballina)

The best front-rower in the competition by a fair margin.

Montgomery dominated with his size and stood tall in the big games.

Shane Kight makes a run for Murwillumbah in the NRRRL grand final.
Shane Kight makes a run for Murwillumbah in the NRRRL grand final. Cathy Adams

Prop: Shane Kight (Murwillumbah)

Kight got through plenty of work this season.

He always played well in a team known for its quality in the forwards

Hooker: Zac Beecher (Ballina)

It was a big year for Beecher with his speed out of dummy half a nightmare for most teams.

He didn't have a bad game and was still in High School during the season.

Second row: Jack Wythes (Evans Head)

Wythes finished 16 points clear when he took out the NRRRL Best and Fairest award this season.

He was brilliant in defence and a big part in the Bombers resurgence.

Second row: Sam Elliott (Marist Brothers)

Another talented teenager with a bright future.

He represented NSW Under-18s and Brothers were always a better side when he was on the field.

Lock: Dean Murphy (Murwillumbah)

Murphy was a handy new addition to the Mustangs pack this season.

Tried his heart out during the finals.

Bench: Jonty Van De Scheur (Murwillumbah)

 

A talented lock that picked up player-of-the-match honours in a losing side at the NSW Country Championships.

Missed the grand final with injury and would have made a big difference if he played.

Bench: Djaan Jarrett (Northern United)

Jarrett had another big season and is a leader in the Dirawongs pack.

There are a lot of talented second-rowers in the competition and he is up there with the best.

Bench: Jake Sands (Cudgen)

A handy halfback that dragged Cudgen to the semi-finals.

He was the highest pointscorer in the competition with 168 points.

Paul O’Neill
Paul O’Neill Jerad Williams

Bench: Paul O'Neill (Marist Brothers)

The courageous captain from the Rams who leaves nothing in the tank each week.

A natural leader and still has plenty of playing years ahead of him

Luke Turner
Luke Turner Jay Cronan

Coach: Luke Turner and Tim Tregidgo (Evans Head)

Evans Head jumped from just avoiding the wooden spoon to premiership contenders this season.

Turner believed in his side with Tregidgo leading them on the field.

Ballina coach Tyler Iverson deserves special mention for getting the Seagulls to its third straight premiership.

OTHER STARS OF THE SEASON

Player of the finals: Jess Perry and Dan Gibson (Ballina)

Representative player of the year Tim James (Casino) and Jonty Van De Scheur (Murwillumbah)

Captain of the year: Sam O'Dea (Murwillumbah)

Rookie of the year: Hayden Rosenbaum (Byron Bay)

Best signing: James Roberts (Northern United to Casino)

Best defender: Kane Montgomery (Ballina)

Most improved: Chad Taylor (Casino)

Most exciting player to watch: Brett Kelly (Northern United)

Toughest player: Damien Benn (Casino)



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