NEW ERA: Football finals day welcomed by young and old
THE BEST teams in the Clarence will be among the first to try out Rushforth Park's new clubhouse facilities, and for two stalwarts of the old weatherboard canteen, it couldn't be better for them.
Rhonda Adamson ran the canteen for 30 years, while Nita Taylor was a constant watcher of her kids running across the fields since its inception.
"I've got five kids, 23 grandchildren and four great grandchildren," Nita said. "And my daughter still plays as well of two of the great grandchildren.
"I used to be here watching and I'd come up for my cup of tea."
Rhonda said the old weatherboard shed could serve hundreds of teams in a day in the past, and the old weatherboard area was past its time.
"It was full of white-ants and broken into all the time," she said. "You'd get one thing plugged and then there'd be another hole."
Both stalwarts of the football community agreed the new facilities were "absolutely beautiful", and admired what was now available.
"The referees would come and get under foot," Rhonda added. "They'd always come in and say they couldn't do it without their coffee."
"I look at the first aid room here, and I remember a long time ago we'd just have a box in the back. All the kids would come up there," Nita added.
"I said to Rhonda I didn't think I'd be alive to see it … but it's a very happy thing to see."
The finals action started last night with the u15's and 16's playing for the title.
Junior action will start off the day with 12s, 13s and 14s, before the three senior grades start from 2.30pm
Westlawn Tigers will be represented in all three senior grades, in men's 2nd Division squaring off against Yamba Breakers and in 3rd Division against Maclean Bobcats, while Maclean Green lie in wait in the women's 2nd Division.
"It is always good to head out to a grand final day and have representatives in every grade - it makes for a good afternoon," Westlawn captain/coach James Joyce said.
In the top tier men's clash, James will be part of a Tigers team braced for a "down to the wire" clash with the Breakers.
The head-to-head margins between the sides have been wafer thin, the Breakers getting the chocs 2-1, 1-nil, and the last encounter a 1-all draw when Yamba scored late.
"We expect it will be a tough hitout - I'm always very sore after playing Yamba," James said.
Yamba president Mark Skippings echoed those thoughts - underlining there had been little to separate the competition's standout squads.
"It's definitely been a good season and it was our objective and major focus to do well in 2nd Division as that's the highest division that we play in," Mark said.
"We've got a great coach in Adam Penfold and a good bunch who have been very impressive."
Adam is in his second year as a player/coach for the Breakers, and Mark said he had been "a good leader on and off the park for us, and he's definitely motivated the players".
While Yamba has kept its core group of players, there's been some new additions in 2020, including keeper Adrian Miller - normally a rugby player who found himself without a sport as a result of COVID.
"Adrian's been super in goal," Mark said.
The women's 2nd Division grand final may be more cut and dried, as Maclean Green have been sublime across the regular season.
Maclean club president Matthew Farrell said the Green Machine were hoping to go back-to-back after winning the 2019 grand final.
"I've had the pleasure of watching quite a few of their games and they have been dominant - but Westlawn are a strong side," Matthew said.
Maclean will have five teams in action on Saturday - and along with Yamba and Westlawn, they form part of the Big Three.
Matthew said the club's medium term goal was to enter a women's side in the Premier League in Coffs Harbour in 2021.
This year's decider will be another step on that path.
"When you get a chance at a grand final you've got to try and take it because it might be 20 years before you get another," Matthew said.
The Tigers too will be striving to give a good account of themselves.
"Our (Westlawn) girls will be going out there to try and play a good style of football," James said.
"As a team going through the process - with some young girls and some experienced players - they are improving. They won't be going out there just to make up the numbers.
"Again, I think it will be a physical encounter as both are strong teams with strong players and they'll be going at each other."