Ballina Seagulls centre Dan Gibson celebrates the 2013 grand final win. Photo The Northern Star.
Ballina Seagulls centre Dan Gibson celebrates the 2013 grand final win. Photo The Northern Star.

Highs and lows in NRRRL grand finals

Sports editor Mitchell Craig ranks the best Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand finals of the last decade (2010-2019) in order.

 

Ballina broke a 20-year premiership drought when they won the grand final in 2013. Photo: The Northern Star.
Ballina broke a 20-year premiership drought when they won the grand final in 2013. Photo: The Northern Star.

1. 2013, Ballina Seagulls d Murwillumbah Mustangs 30-24 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

A capacity crowd crammed in to see a thriller when Ballina overcame the defending premiers Murwillumbah to break a 20-year premiership drought in 2013.

The fairytale looked in danger early when they were down 12-0 in the first half before teenage winger Brian Kelly sealed the win with a try in the 71st minute.

The Seagulls had one of its strongest teams in club history that season with props Dylan Montgomery and Greg Ryan leading the way.

 

Murwillumbah Mustangs celebrate winning the 2012 NRRRL premiership against the Grafton Ghosts.
Murwillumbah Mustangs celebrate winning the 2012 NRRRL premiership against the Grafton Ghosts.

2. 2012, Murwillumbah Mustangs d Grafton Ghosts 27-26 at Stan Sercombe Oval, Murwillumbah

A penalty goal in the 79th minute to former NRL winger and hometown product Luke Covell sealed the Mustangs the premiership in a nail-biter.

Murwillumbah had a well-balanced team in 2012 and sent veteran prop Lionel Foster out as a winner.

Its games against Grafton were always gripping contests between 2011-2013 and the Mustangs were well coached by Troy McLean while Ghosts had Col Speed at the helm.

 

 

Ballina celebrate the NRRRL grand final win after beating Cudgen 32-24 at Kingsford Smith Park. Photo Mitchell Craig.
Ballina celebrate the NRRRL grand final win after beating Cudgen 32-24 at Kingsford Smith Park. Photo Mitchell Craig.

3. 2017, Ballina Seagulls d Cudgen Hornets 32-24 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

Ballina had to dig deep for this one despite Cudgen playing most of the game with 12 men after lock Anthony Flores was sent off for a spear tackle in the opening minutes.

The Hornets jumped out to 20-8 lead at one point, off the back of a determined effort from front-rower Caleb Ziebell who was the best on ground in a losing effort.

Ballina turned to its big guns in five-eighth Alex Grant, fullback Oliver Regan and second-rower Justin Shillingsworth who steered them home in the second half.

 

An emotional Murwillumbah captain Sam O'Dea leads the Mustangs out to the field in the 2016 NRRRL grand final. Photo Scott Powick.
An emotional Murwillumbah captain Sam O'Dea leads the Mustangs out to the field in the 2016 NRRRL grand final. Photo Scott Powick.

4. 2016, Murwillumbah Mustangs d Cudgen Hornets 16-14 at Ned Byrne Field, Kingscliff

Plenty of emotion in the build up with the win coming just one week after Mustangs second-rower Grant Cook died after he collapsed on the sideline in the preliminary final.

Cudgen were the team to beat all season as the Mustangs defended their way to a memorable victory.

Murwillumbah fullback Toby McIntosh played the whole game with a busted knee after he was nailed by an opposition front-rower in the opening kick-off.

The Ballina Seagulls celebrate after defeating Murwillumbah in the 2019 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina. Photo Ursula Bentley@CapturedAus
The Ballina Seagulls celebrate after defeating Murwillumbah in the 2019 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina. Photo Ursula Bentley@CapturedAus

5. 2019, Ballina Seagulls d Murwillumbah Mustangs 38-18 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

It will be remembered as the season former NRL star Jamie Lyon came to the Ballina club and he finished strong with a hat-trick in the grand final.

The Seagulls side was stacked with talented players last year with centre Zac Beecher, hooker Michael Dwane and second-rower Jack Durheim leading the way.

 

Grafton Ghosts players celebrate with the team song after winning the NRRRL grand final.
Grafton Ghosts players celebrate with the team song after winning the NRRRL grand final.

6. 2010, Grafton Ghosts d Ballina Seagulls 14-6 at Frank McGuren Field, Grafton

The Ghosts were dominant in 2010 and finished the season undefeated against an up-and-coming Ballina side.

The young Seagulls were brave in defeat after front-rower Greg Ryan was sent off for dissent in a game riddled with penalties.

The Seagulls laid a foundation for future success while Grafton were awarded the Clayton Cup in the aftermath, as the top performing team in country rugby league that season.

 

Khan Williams and Ben McLennan celebrate the Grafton Ghost's 2011 NRRRL premiership after the final siren. Photo: Adam Hourigan.
Khan Williams and Ben McLennan celebrate the Grafton Ghost's 2011 NRRRL premiership after the final siren. Photo: Adam Hourigan.

7. 2011, Grafton Ghosts d Murwillumbah Mustangs 10-6 at Frank McGuren Field, Grafton.

A bitter feud between these two sides culminated in back-to-back premierships and another Clayton Cup trophy for the Ghosts.

The Mustangs went into the game without fullback Michael Ashburn who broke his jaw late in the season when he was hit with a shoulder charge by Ghosts centre Khan Williams.

Murwillumbah were livid when Williams avoided suspension.

Grafton tackled its way to a premiership in a physical battle up front.

 

The Tweed Coast Raiders take home the trophy, winning their first NRRRL Premiership in 2018. Photo Mitchell Craig.
The Tweed Coast Raiders take home the trophy, winning their first NRRRL Premiership in 2018. Photo Mitchell Craig.

8. 2018, Tweed Coast Raiders d Ballina Seagulls 24-4 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

First premiership for Tweed Coast and would have rated higher if it wasn't such a one-sided contest.

The Raiders blew the perennial favourites Ballina off the park and it never quite clicked on the day for the Seagulls.

Former NRL front-rower Brent Kite coached Tweed Coast, who boasted a big forward pack while the likes of hooker Dan Willoughby and halfback Tahne Robinson steered the ship.

 

 

Ballina's Robby Miles makes another charge in the 2014 NRRRL grand final against Byron Bay. Photo The Northern Star.
Ballina's Robby Miles makes another charge in the 2014 NRRRL grand final against Byron Bay. Photo The Northern Star.

9. 2014, Ballina Seagulls d Byron Bay Red Devils 17-6 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

Ballina were a lot more ruthless in this battle and never really looked in danger once they got to a 17-6 lead at halftime.

Hooker Andrew Battese and lock Robby Miles were dominant while Greg Barnes won his second straight title as coach.

 

Ballina celebrates in 2015 NRRRL grand final win. Photo Cathy Adams.
Ballina celebrates in 2015 NRRRL grand final win. Photo Cathy Adams.

1 0. 2015, Ballina Seagulls d Murwillumbah Mustangs 34-6 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina

Another one sided affair with Ballina running in six tries including a hat-trick to centre Jayden Caldwell-Jacky in the Seagulls third straight premiership win.

Ballina had its usual hard edge with front-rower Dylan Montgomery and second-rower Dan Gibson.

They also blitzed the bigger Murwillumbah side with speed out wide in brothers Jay and Nick Meaney.


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