A red and white army
By TONY WHITE
FOR over three decades close mates Peter Niland and Warren Bingham have been an integral part of the Jacaranda Hotel Grafton Redmen chief supporters ? the red and white balmy army.
This morning the two well known characters will join the likes of close friend Terry Hall and a hoard of Redmen supporters to travel by bus bound for Lismore ... and hoping like hell to experience the euphoria of grand final success.
The Redmen first and second grade teams are pitted against Ballina Seahorses in the respective Far North Coast Rugby Union grand finals.
Niland, 61 and Bingham were both top grade rugby league players for the South Grafton Rebels before switching code allegiance.
"I'd finished playing league and one day Hally said why don't I come along and watch the Redmen play," Niland recalled.
"I took Warren (Bingham) with me.
"That was around 30 years back. I think we've been to just about every game since."
Since supporting the Redmen Niland has been involved in three first grade premiership wins and he reckons there's nothing like it.
"It's a very special day and this one will be no different," he said.
"We'll all be on the bus, all with our supporters shirts on and barracking loudly for the Redmen.
"I'm really looking forward to it.
"The Redmen have been a very successful club, there's great spirit and mateship.
"Maybe some of the local league teams ? there seems a bit of disenchantment there ? should come over and have a look at the set up in union. They might learn something."
Supporting the Redmen has become a weekend tradition for Niland and the rest of the balmy army.
"I really look forward to my Saturday's," he said.
"It's become an important culture in my life.
"It's just a great day. We've had some really great times.
"It's not only about the players but the association with the home crowd, the friendliness, camaraderie. Over the years there has been a huge number of characters, blokes like Red Toombs, Syd Burgess and a heap of others.
"The women get there and don't worry they've got a bit to say too.
"It's like you don't see a lot of them throughout the year then at the first home game, it's like the gathering of the clan. Everyone catches up and we have a great time."
Niland said the Redmen's new club house at Rugby Park, South Grafton, had added another dimension to the enjoyment.
"The ground and club house is absolutely fabulous," Niland said.
"They have done a marvelous job out there. It's been planned so well. The set up inside is a credit to those who did it and believe me, it's brought out the crowds. This year has been unbelievable."
Niland doesn't profess to be a punter but he's got a tip for today.
"The last game before the semis was won on a kick, the semi final was won on a kick and while it will be close, the Redmen to win first and second grade."
First grade coach Gary Powell will be on a high after his wife Samantha gave birth to a baby daughter yesterday at Grafton Hospital.
Captain and flanker, 34, Rob Brown has special motivation to return home a winner.
"I experienced the heartbreak of our two point loss in 1998 and after 14 years with the club I never want to go through that again," he said.