COLOSSAL COSSACKS: ‘Rag tag’ Iluka march into finals
ANOTHER huge crowd at Iluka’s new oval last Saturday saw the local side march into the semi-finals of the Presidents Cup Far North Coast Rugby Union competition.
It was a colossal win 17-14 against one of the more favoured sides - the Richmond Rangers.
Whoever they are, they come from the hinterland of Lismore hills but went home with their tails between their legs, whistles in their pocket and banjoes still in the car.
The previous week I saw the Cossacks go down to the Evans Head Killer Whales by the exact scoreline in blustery conditions.
That day, Grant Brown iced two difficult conversions against a strong cross wind. This week in benign conditions we could only manage one goal from five attempts.
As I walked towards the oval I saw the opposition all dressed up ready to play in splendid attire (meaning they all had identical gear) and thirty minutes before the kick-off they were into their warm up drills and the leadership group were revving them up.
I feared the worst. They looked slick.
I kept walking and saw the red and white jumpers slowly emerging from cars in a variety of shorts and an even bigger assortment of socks. You were never sure who was playing where and where they were from.
I saw some Cossacks from last year, Lower Clarence Magpies, Yamba Buccaneers and a few of the Iluka soccer fraternity. They looked a real rag tag mob. You would not have backed them with someone else’s money.
Once the whistle went for the start of the game, all those things didn’t matter. The visitors played a more traditional game with a purer finesse.
The locals on the other hand, just kept applying pressure and soon intimidated the opposition with their ‘no prisoners’ attitude. This is in the true tradition of the Russian Cossacks, who while cavalrymen, had no time for niceties.
Coach Tony Wiseman has the knack of getting the best of his players and can get even get them playing as a team. He can massage the bruises as well as the ego of individuals.
His goal was to stun the opposition and make it ‘too hard for them’ to contest. It worked.
One of the reasons it did work was because for the first time in three years Iluka actually won the penalty count.
This frustrated the opposition no end because while they had six referees on their team (we only had four) they couldn’t get through to the official. They had two players given yellow cards (only one for us) and at half time he addressed both teams in no uncertain manner that he was sick of all the back chat and abuse.
It made no difference and the second half was a repeat.
On Saturday we have to go to Byron Bay for the semi-final and I fear that a more experienced referee will be appointed and as usual will be keen to impress other officials how well he knows the rules and how pedantic he can be.
It will be a real test of the discipline in the Cossacks team. In the past they have not handled it too well. Lets hope it doesn’t spoil their performance.
Iluka take on Richmond Range for a shot at a preliminary final from 1:45pm at Byron Bay Recreational Grounds on Saturday.