Seagulls soar into the final
A CONFIDENT Ballina Seagulls team have been busy with their final training preparations ahead of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final on Sunday.
The Seagulls, who finished the season second on the ladder, will take on the minor premiers Tweed Coast Raiders at Kingsford Smith Park.
The Raiders re-entered the NRRRL competition back in 2016, and Seagulls' club football manager Scott Redford said that their rivals have had a 'very good' season all year.
"They have only lost two games this year,” Mr Redford said.
"But they were both against Ballina.”
The Seagulls are aiming for their fifth premiership in six outings, and should they win on Sunday, back-to-back premierships after winning it last season.
The local club ended a 20-year premiership drought when they won the competition in 2013, then followed it up with two more consecutive wins.
"We started our run in 2012,” Mr Redford said.
"We didn't make the final that year, but since then the club has gone from strength to strength.”
The club has been in the finals in six of the past eight seasons.
Redford said the 2013 team was made up entirely of Ballina juniors, while the majority of the 2018 squad was also home-grown talent.
Three of the players, including captain Jess Perry, Dylan Montgomery and Dan Gibson, have all been involved in each of the grand final campaigns since 2013.
He put down the club's current golden patch to the strength of the junior program run in Ballina.
"If you haven't got good juniors, you're not much chance,” he said.
"It's important to nurture and bring through our junior players, so that you can strengthen the junior and senior players.”
The strength of the local young talent is clear, with the Under-18 side also going into the grand final.
The U18 squad have had huge success for the past three wins, recently scoring their third consecutive minor premiership.
If they win this week, they will also take home their third premiership in a row.
Redford said that regardless of outcome on the weekend, he is proud of his club.
"Thank you to all of the volunteers who show up week after week to help out. We really cannot tell them how much we appreciate it,” he said.
"Especially our sponsors. We wouldn't be here today without them.”
The gates for the grand final day open early at 8.30am, with a women's league tag game at 9.45am, followed by the under-18s grand final. The first grade game starts at 3pm.
Tickets cost $12 for adults while children aged under 16 can enter for free.