The heavens turned out more-or-less favourable for Sydney’s North Harbour Rays, playing their first home game, against the so far undefeated NSW Country Eagles. With a week of weather suitable for a Crowded House song, a crowded grandstand was always going to be unlikely. Yet 1982 brave souls still ventured out to Brookvale Oval on this blustery Thursday night, eager to see what this NRC fuss was all about, and for the most part, the skies were at peace. It was great to see kids kicking a ball around on the hill, a BBQ on the go and people talking to each other like they weren’t actually strangers. This is what football is all about.
Article by ‘Cowboymike’
Although most of us union fans were struggling to work out where to park and where to get in, and more importantly where the refreshments and amenities were, it still felt like there was a joyous and refreshing buzz around a ground we weren’t quite use to. At this stage however, I would say that Brookvale Oval doesn’t quite have the home ground ‘fortress’ feeling that Manly Oval, Rat Park, North Sydney, Chatswood etc. might have.…. and so it would seem for the NSW Country Eagles, a team of journeymen and wanderers, who so far seem to be finding all grounds to their liking.
Both teams were busy, both were enterprising and often running the ball out of their danger zones, when the more sensible or tactically (cough) boring, strategists would want them to be kicking for territory. This enterprise, however, was at times the downfall for the home team, whose error rate left them grasping at the heels of the more clinical Country team. When the visitors kicked, they kicked well. And they were there to pounce on the home team’s mistakes.
There were a few errors and slips from both sides due to the conditions, but play was overall very sound considering the night. Generally, the referee kept his distance, and quick taps seemed to be the order of the night when he didn’t. Kicks at goal were eschewed until the 65th minute, much to the distaste of the crowd, when the Eagles decided a buffer would be a good idea, considering the decline in weather.
Young Andrew Kellaway, has continued to take a ‘badger-like’ grip on this inaugural season’s try-scorer trophy with a well taken brace of meat. The Eagles halves combination of Brendan McKibbin and Sam Windsor were stoic in defence, deft with the boot and slick with the hands. The Eagles have well and truly drawn a line in the sand for the other teams to dare and cross.
An un-converted try to the Rays’ Michael Wells opened the scoring after the Rays opted for a quick tap following a close range penalty early in the game. However, in return, a strong build-up down the left hand side led to a nicely finished try in the corner to the Eagles’ winger Andrew Kellaway, it was converted to give the Eagles an 8-5 lead.
Play went up and down the field a few times, and both sides opted for the quick tap or line-out instead of kicking for goal with their penalties. This kept both the barman and the BBQ-er bored and broke. And then, just to check that everyone was awake and watching, the Eagles flung it left and wide, hoping for a fast man… but they got a big man – Stephen Hoiles – who… almost passed it to the fast man who was marked at that time… but instead, chipped it, with his wrong foot, perfectly, ahead of the flying Andrew Kellaway who offloaded for a brilliant try to Ed Stubbs! Wow! That’s what we came for. Even if it wasn’t the home team..
Luck Holmes brought some balance to the scoreline just before the half-time break after a solid build-up from the Rays – turning down a shot at goal of course. The teams went to the sheds at 16-13. Tantalising prospects for the second half.
Half time gave us two men in kilts racing a giant rat, who clearly had some toe, then toed his tail, and was left tailing and towed, with his teeth in the mud. Laughs had by all.
Second half! Great stuff, great footy. Much the same as the first, the ball was flung freely by both sides, there was the odd brief shower from above, but it was only the odd high kick raining from above that upset the crowd.
The first point scoring result came out of nowhere it seemed, a brilliant individual run from the Rays’ David Feltscheer, from 40-odd metres out, there was still a solid wall of Eagles to beat, but Feltsh stepped right and left and right again and then only had the goalposts to beat to bring Brooky to life! Conversion successful and game on, Rays 21 – Country 16.
Play stuttered for a few minutes with both teams turning it over, then in the process of trying to run it out from their own line, the Rays coughed it up. Samu Wara pounced to give the Eagles a converted try that the Rays just wouldn’t be able to get back.
Several substitutions from both sides didn’t change the balance. One more try to the ‘Scarlet Badger’, Andrew Kellaway and then, believe it or not, penalty goals…. then the Eagles were able to head home topping the table.
This third tier competition has dished up some fine rugby viewing so far. Long may it continue.
The Game Changer
The Rays tried to run it out of their own goal line mid-way through the second half, they looked to have the numbers to go all the way, but coughed up the pill which sat up nicely for Samu Wara who ran straight through untouched. Up till that point, it was balanced, but you always kind of felt that Country were tidier.
The G&GR MOTM
It’s hard not to give it to Andrew Kellaway for his brace, but they were both ‘finisher’s tries’ created by the men around him, so the creator, Sam Windsor gets the nod.
Players to watch
Andrew Kellaway for sure. He’s quick, and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time, as you need a winger to be. The Rays’ David Feltscheer has made points out of nothing too and makes for great viewing.
Score & Scorers
Michael Wells 6′
Luke Holmes 40′
Dave Feltscheer 51′
Hamish Angus 40′, 52′ (2/3)
Andrew Kellaway 12′, 60′
Ed Stubbs 30′
Samu Wara 57′
Sam Windsor 13′,31′,58′ (3/4)
Sam Windsor 67′, 80′ (2/2)
Cards & citings
Feature image credit: Lachlan Holmes