SAUSAGES were sizzling, footies were flying, kids were laughing, and most notably the winter sun was shining strong.
You’d never guess that just 200 metres down the road a tornado had ripped up the beach and smashed through a dozen homes less than a week earlier.
But that was the scene at Williams Reserve yesterday as upwards of 500 people turned out to have a kick and a feed with the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans.
A quartet of top-graders – Mat Rogers, Clinton Toopi, David Mead and Esi Tonga – made the journey down the Pacific Highway to the delight of hundreds.
While last Thursday was all devastation, yesterday was all smiles.
Dual international Rogers, whose father Steve once owned the Lennox Point Hotel, not surprisingly, was the crowd favourite.
His ties to the area run deep. As a boy he attended Ballina High.
“It’s a great area the Northern Rivers,” Rogers said.
“We were all blown away when we heard of the storm down here last week. It’s pretty close to home.”
It would have been easy for the well-paid Rogers and his team-mates to watch from afar, but that’s not their go.
“Of course we volunteered to do anything we could to help,” he said.
“Today was the first day we have had off and here we are.”
While Rogers and his Titans mates missed the heaviest part of the clean-up their contribution could be seen, and appreciated, in the faces of the hundreds of kids who yesterday got to meet some of their heroes.
“If we can put smiles on the kids’ faces then we have had a win,” he said.
And judging by the number of Titans jumpers the Gold Coast side has plenty of support on this side of the border.
Even the big kids were keen to get involved.
Byron Bay firefighter Cameron Bell got amongst the action.
“It has been a tough week,” Bell said.
“So to be able to have a break from it all and see the community come together here and put it in the back of the minds for a minute is great.”
The Titans ran drills, signed jerseys and handed out merchandise in the sunshine.