Battese heads up a new-look Seagulls
Battese played with the Warren Ryan-coached Canterbury Bulldogs when they won successive premierships in 1984 and 1985.
The former forward describes himself as ‘very much a fan’ of Ryan’s coaching methods. "I’m a disciple of his," he says.
After a stint with Wynnum-Manly in Brisbane, Battese was lured south to the Sydney competition and started out with Western Suburbs.
He spent six years in Sydney football, completing his time with Eastern Suburbs (now Sydney City Roosters).
He played 105 first-grade games and he gained a reputation as a tough, hard but fair competitor.
After finishing his playing career, Battese spent 10 years as a rugby league development officers – seven with the NSW Rugby League and three with Canterbury.
He played a season in the old Group One competition as captain-coach of Byron Bay, and re-entered the coaching game in 2007 as coaching co-ordinator for Ballina when the Chris Binge-coached side made the NRRRL grand final, only to suffer a heartbreaking last-minute loss to Mullumbimby Giants.
The Seagulls had an unusually lean season last year, finishing near the bottom of the pack after losing many players.
Battese this year is pinning his hopes on a mix of seasoned players and youth. For Ballina’s first trial game, four Under-18 players were in the first-grade team.
Battese describes the young Seagulls as ‘good kids’, many of whom he has known for much of their lives. For example, he has known Robby Miles, a star at five-eighth last season, since Robby was seven years old.
Battese believes the game has changed in a way that there no longer are fears of promising youngsters getting ‘bashed’ when given a chance at the top grade.
He believes that if they’re good enough to play first grade, ‘they’re old enough’, no matter their age.
The presence of young up-and-comers also keeps the older players on their toes, Battese says.
Ballina’s first game should create plenty of interest.
The Seagulls will take on the newly-promoted Evans Head Bombers at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, this Sunday, April 19.
ONE of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition’s best halfbacks is back in Ballina and will lead the Seagulls’ first-grade team this season.
Brent Peterson was a Ballina junior who has played all of his first-grade football with Lismore Marist Brothers.
Coach Brian Battese says Peterson lives at Broadwater and works in Ballina, and had decided the switch to Ballina was more convenient.
Another good pick-up for Ballina is centre Jono Freeman, who last season played in the strong Queensland Cup competition with Tweed Heads Seagulls.
He also has played with North Sydney and Balmain lower-grade teams.
"Jono’s doing university in Lismore, so he’s moved down here," Battese said.
Freeman’s move also has been welcomed by Northern Rivers Regional selectors, who have him earmarked for representative selection.
Returning after time off from the game are former Ballina players Will Keane, Matt Thompson, Dean French and James Rix, and they will add depth to the club.
PAUL Tagget is the Ballina Seagulls assistant first-grade coach.
Tagget was in charge when Ballina’s reserve grade won the 2007 NRRRL premiership.
Tyler Iverson is reserve grade coach, while Greg Barnes will have his third year as Under-18s coach.