RECOGNISE ANYONE? Pictured is the Byron Bay Red Devils 1981 grand final-winning rugby league team.
RECOGNISE ANYONE? Pictured is the Byron Bay Red Devils 1981 grand final-winning rugby league team. Contributed

Devils big win remembered

A SPORTING reunion to be held in Byron Bay on September 24 is just as much a celebration of the community coming together in hard times, says local man Brian Buckley.

The Byron Bay Red Devils' grand final-winning rugby league team of 1981 will hold its 30-year reunion at the Byron Bay Bowling Club.

Buckley was the manager of the team and said the away victory over the Tweed Heads Seagulls was a big thing for the town.

The Red Devils had only formed as a stand-alone club in 1974 after a split from Mullumbimby, and the 1981 win was the club's first top-grade premiership in the then Group 18 competition.

"The town needed a bit of an injection back in 1981 - it wasn't going that well," Buckley said.

"The win brought the town together.

"There were people who probably wouldn't normally go to a football match who went up that day.

"It was a big day - especially to beat the Seagulls. They were the big club and we were the two-bob raffle club."

The Red Devils won the game 12-9. The team was led and coached by former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog Norm Thomas, who came to Byron Bay in 1979.

"The team was going nowhere until we got him," Buckley said.

"We spent money we couldn't afford, but it paid off - we got the players and we got the crowds," he said.

Buckley said Thomas had confirmed he would be coming back to Byron from his current home on the Central Coast for the reunion.

As for the game, Byron Bay hooker Garry Donnelly was the Man of the Match.

He scored a try in the 32nd minute, which fullback Ray Wakefield converted.

Bay centre Peter Elliott scored two tries in the second half - one was a 50-metre dash after an intercept, and the second came from a Paul Irwin bomb.

The conversions weren't successful.

Second-rower John Bomford's field goal late in the game brought the Bay's score to 12 points, remembering these were the days when a try was worth three points.

Buckley said he hoped the reunion also would spark interest in the club, which this season, for the first time in its history, hasn't fielded a first-grade team.

The reunion starts at 6.30pm and is open to former players, supporters of the Red Devils and the community.

For details, phone Brian Buckley on 6685 4939.


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