Classy Comets exploit every Seahorse weakness on offer
THEY don't get much more physical than today's Coffs Harbour victory over Woolgoolga at the Sports Reserve.
The Comets won 52-22 and while there was a continuing undercurrent of tension between the teams that's expected in any local derby, rarely did open hostilities break out.
Both sides played patches of inspirational football but to the detriment of the home team, when Woolgoolga went off the boil, they made some horrid mistakes.
Coffs Harbour has the capacity to be a magnificent defensive side.
Most of their tries were scored after gaining possession on the back of torrid passages of defence where they had asserted mastery of the field - especially in the second half.
But there are times they too have their weak moments.
The Seahorses scored two of the opening three tries by catching the Comets in a state of lethargy defending off the line.
However, each 10 minute period either side of the break when put together in context proved fatal for the Seahorses.
It began with a Josh Simms try from short range in the 28th minute to put Coffs in front 16-10.
Referee Nathan Grace ruled Woolgoolga had played at a loose ball and ordered the tackle count to restart, a decision that caused the temperature of some in black, white and blue attire, to rise.
Next, Woolgoolga hooker Blake Seymour made a comment behind Grace's back that earned a stint in the sin bin and before he'd even entered the shed, opposite number Andrew Smith was across the line.
With Seymour still absent, Vikram Atwal went over in the second set of the second half and from that moment, Woolgoolga coach Greg Shuttleworth was starting to realise there would be no way back.
"In that period either side of the break we conceded 16 points which was exactly what we didn't need," he said.
"We dropped our bundle after copping four penalties back-to-back and necessary or not, that's how it is and there's no excuse."
Five team changes were necessary including the need to replace Fred Walker and Joe Ravueta who withdrew just before kick-off.
"Coffs have a few weaknesses that we exposed but chances of winning were lessened by injuries and late team changes," Shuttleworth said.
"But again we contributed to our own downfall.
"Like you said we played patches of really good footy before losing concentration and not going on with it.
"Plain facts are that defensively around the ruck, we weren't good enough."
In Woopi's darkest period, Coffs Harbour exploited every weakness they found.
Gaping holes were torn through the centre of the ruck where the defence was most ineffective.
Confidence suffered, evidenced by a kick into the in-goal that led to the try scored by Sammy van Hammond.
Only one Woolgoolga defender was within five metres of where the kick landed and his air swing at the ball turned out a gift to the Comets.
Winning coach Colin Speed agreed letting in the first two tries wasn't a good look but dropped strong hints that new tactics had been tested and results had pleased him.
"People from outside may not acknowledge we've made really important changes on our edges," he said.
"Two new blokes have come in and Abel Lafaoseu is out at the moment and while I'm not making excuses, they haven't played for me in those positions before."
It's noticeable that Coffs have players who can recognise where opponents are most vulnerable and exploit that to the limit.
A good example was smashing through the centre and making huge inroads later in the match.
"It's something we work on and get rewarded for in regards to push-support and our shape," Speed said.
"That was winning games early and we went away from that (last week).
"Today we went back to that and reaped the rewards."
Group 2 and the Woolgoolga club must soon acknowledge the glaring problem being allowed to fester on the sidelines.
Again today, the competition's most notorious "supporter" broke the boundaries.
Screaming constant abuse at referees and match officials may be one nasty thing.
But inciting violence - and being allowed to get away with it - is another.
In the period when the Seahorses were going through a difficult phase, he howled: "Kick them in the face, Woopi, if you have any pride in yourselves."
And later: "Use elbows, Woopi, elbow them in the head."
Over and over, on and on, it went.
There is no suggestion this was alcohol-related, although it's ironic he delivered his tirades from the "dry" section the club has set aside in recent years for families.
Not that there were many (families) there with possibly, one of the lowest crowds in decades to attend a Woolgoolga fixture.
The "supporter" had several run-ins with Group 2 vice-president Scott Mieni who tried constantly to silence him, only to be abused in return.
Action must be taken, after years of inaction on this particular patron.
It would please this writer no end to be able to report in next weekend's preview of the long weekend match between Woolgoolga and Sawtell at the same venue that both bodies have made a proactive stand.
That they have rid local venues forever of this menace, this total blight on the good name and reputation of rugby league.
The following letter was received in relation to the above comment.
As president of the Woolgoolga Rugby League Club I would like to respond to your article, which appeared in the Coffs Advocate online.
Let me start by saying that the WRLFC does not condone any form of offensive behaviour at our games.
This is the first year for me as president of the WRLFC as it is for all the other members of the club's executive.
The new committee were aware that there were issues relating to the behaviour of a small minority of Woolgoolga supporters and from day one we set a goal to eradicate these problems.
We started by preparing a detailed Conditions of Entry and a Code of Conduct which prohibits any disorderly or offensive behaviour, including the abuse of any official, player or other supporter.
We have these statements prominently placed around the ground and in our program each week.
We also employ private security to monitor and enforce our Conditions of Entry and Code of Conduct and our ground announcer regularly appeals to supporters to comply with our Code of Conduct and not to abuse or ridicule officials or any other person.
On the day in question the WRLFC had several incidents that required the attendance of security and committee members to deal with breaches of our Code of Conduct.
Most of these related to supporters from both Woolgoolga and Coffs Harbour abusing match officials.
The person referred to in your article has been previously warned for breaches of our code of conduct and this week was served with a letter advising him that he is prohibited from attending any further games at Woolgoolga Sports Ground.
Another person will also be prohibited from attending any further games and will be served with a Banning Notice issued by the NSW Police.
These actions are something that the club had hoped we could avoid but clearly our message was not getting through to some people.
The club has now stepped up its campaign to rid our game of the 'ugly supporters' at Woolgoolga Sports Ground no matter what club they support.
We now have a zero tolerance policy in relation to bad behaviour and any person breaching that will be removed from the ground and may face a permanent ban from the venue.
This includes anyone that wants to yell abuse at officials and players.
As of this week there will be a NSW Police (user pay) presence at all Woolgoolga home games.
Although this will be expensive for the club it is a move that we believe has become necessary to achieve compliance.
We have also made the decision only to serve mid strength alcoholic drinks.
Our Conditions of Entry and Code of Conduct can be viewed on our web page at:
What some people fail to realise is that sport should always be about enjoyment for both the participants and the spectators and at the end of the day it is just a game.
We want the genuine football supporter and their families to be able to attend our games and not have to endure the bellowing of abuse and the bad behaviour of idiots.
We are committed to do whatever it takes to ensure that this is possible as we have an obligation to the games officials, players, our sponsors, the local community and to the game itself to make sure this can be achieved.
COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 52 (Andrew Smith 3, Josh Simms 2, Vikram Atwal, Nathan Curry, Jacob van Hammond, Scott Street tries; Nathan Curry 8 goals) def WOOLGOOLGA SEAHORSES 22 (Cale Bird 2, Aaron Gordon 2, Clark Webb tries; Wil Fernando goal)
Scrums: Coffs Harbour 6-5
Penalties: Woolgoolga 11-8
Errors: Woolgoolga 16, Coffs Harbour 6
Nambucca Heads Roosters d Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo Magpies 38-6
Sawtell Panthers d Orara Valley Axemen 36-10
Macksville Sea Eagles d Macleay Valley Mustangs 46-36
Points: Coffs Harbour 14, Macksville 12, Nambucca Heads 12, Sawtell 10, Woolgoolga 6, Macleay Valley 6, Orara Valley 2, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 0
Nambucca Heads d Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 84-10
Woolgoolga d Coffs Harbour 22-18
Sawtell d Orara Valley 54-6
Macleay Valley d Macksville 42-6
Points: Macksville 14, Sawtell 12, Macleay Valley 10, Woolgoolga 8, Nambucca Heads 8, Coffs Harbour 6, Orara Valley 4, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 0
Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo drew with Nambucca Heads 16-all
Orara Valley drew with Sawtell 26-all
Macleay Valley d Macksville 24-16
Points: Macksville 13, Macleay Valley 13, Nambucca Heads 11, Woolgoolga 8, Sawtell 7, Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 7, Orara Valley 3