A double Grand Final showing was a fitting swan song for Byron Bay Services Club Rams’ retiring Premier Division coach Damon Bell.
In an extraordinary career with Byron Bay FC, Bell has collected four Pointscore Champions, two Grand Final Championships, an ANZAC Cup and took the Rams through to the sixth round of the FFA Cup preliminary rounds.
The Premiers and Premier Reserves have been a dominant force in Football Far North Coast competition for all of Damon’s six years at the helm and each team has competed in six of the last seven Grand Finals.
Despite gutsy performances from the Rams in both Divisions, Saturday night’s grand finals fell just short of a fairy tale result.
The Reserves fought a dogged battle against a tough and experienced Richmond Rovers side. The gruelling end-to-end clash remained scoreless for the full ninety minutes, plus 20 minutes of hard graft in extra time only for the Rams to go down 7-6 in the ensuing penalty shootout.
An outstanding performance from keeper Marcus Gibbs saw the 16-year-old awarded the Man of the Match.
The Premier Division Grand Final was an equally intense encounter between rivals Byron Bay and South Lismore.
This season’s four previous matches between the two clubs delivered two wins apiece and some of the most exciting, high quality football in recent memory. This grand final promised more of the same with a near capacity crowd packing Crozier Field to cheer on the contenders.
The Rams hit the ground running, dominating much of the first half with plenty of attacking moves but could not crack the Celtic defence.
Souths stepped up their attack in the second half with the Rams defending hard and mounting frequent counter attacks. With 15 minutes remaining and extra-time looming, Souths broke the deadlock off the back of a free kick to take a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later a superb free kick beat the Rams keeper and put Souths 2-0 in front.
With barely ten minutes on the clock, Byron found another gear and, throwing everyone forward, began to hammer the Celtic goal. Shot after shot was parried by the busy Souths keeper or intercepted by their stolid defence. A penalty in the dying minutes took the score to 2-1 and sparked an even more intense rally from the Rams.
Stellar performances from Diego Vazquez, Lisandro Luaces, Ben Ahern, Rick Muir, Pierce Essery and Jono Pierce were highlights of an epic team effort in the final match of the season.
Supporters are invited to join the Rams and Wildcats in celebrating one of the club's most successful seasons at the Senior Presentation Night on Saturday 12 October from 6pm at the Byron Bay Services Club.