Sportsmanship alive and well in Border league

NOT all of sport's great moments are played out in front of the packed stands of giant stadiums.


Last Saturday, about 8km from the Queensland-NSW border, nestled in the rolling green of the Border Ranges, a shining jewel of sport was being uncovered in the Border Rugby League grand final.


The Killarney Cutters won their first premiership in 54 years by defeating Inglewood 40-16. But the score was only a small part of this story.


It was an emotion-charged victory after officials acceded to a request from Killarney coach Neil Parfitt to increase the number of reserves allowed so one of his players, Kent Wallace, could experience the thrill of playing a grand final.


Wallace, a passionate Killarney footballer, almost lost his life to meningococcal disease as a youngster, endured multiple operations to overcome a serious foot injury and has only one eye. Wallace had been distraught after missing selection in the Killarney squad for the previous week's preliminary final.


In a letter to Border RL president Neil O'Connor last week, Parfitt wrote: ``There are not many situations in our competition that are special circumstances and I believe this requires a brave, positive decision by our league leaders.


``This could be the only chance Kent ever gets to play in a grand final.


``I know in my heart that this will help our game in this part of the rugby league world. I know our competition would only benefit from a positive, compassionate outcome.''


Parfitt stressed that grand final opponents Inglewood should also be allowed an extra reserve if his request was granted.


Inglewood Roosters president Tony Stevenson and captain-coach Mick Gainey readily agreed to the request, as did the Board RL's management committee.


So Wallace came off the bench for the Cutters, played his role and won a grand final.


``We are an amateur league and all our clubs and players are involved because they love the game,'' Border RL president Neil O'Connor said. ``It was a terrific grand final day at Inglewood with a record crowd and a very emotional result. The Border League is really moving forward.''


The Border League comprises clubs from Killarney, Inglewood, Tenterfield, Stan-thorpe, Wallangarra and two teams from Goondiwindi.


Killarney's winning line-up also included two brothers who lost a sibling who took his own life earlier this year.


``Having a footy team is a big thing for these small communities,'' O'Connor said.


Legendary coach Wayne Bennett, who played his early football on the southern Downs, phoned to congratulate the Cutters as the beer flowed. He'd have been prouder still at the victory for sport.