WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville set to for anniversary bash

FAMILY AFFAIR: Josh, Daniel and Ben Damen with their grandfather Greg Ellis after a game in 2019.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Josh, Daniel and Ben Damen with their grandfather Greg Ellis after a game in 2019.

WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville rugby union club will celebrate its 30-year anniversary next weekend.

They will host defending premiers Lennox Head at Lyle Park, Wollongbar on Saturday (June 19) before a gala ball at Goonellabah Workers Sports Club.

Since the club came into the competition it has built a strong junior base and reaped the rewards from that over the last decade winning six premierships.

The Pioneers first tasted premiership success under coach Tony Bundock in 1996 and also reached the grand final in 2002.

Some lean years followed until about 2008 when a number of promising juniors starting coming into the senior grades.

2012 was a big year when they made the grand final for the first time in a decade under club stalwart Ben Grayndler- who had retired having played over 300 games.

They were unsuccessful in two attempts before breaking an 18-year premiership drought in 2014 with coach John Jenkins at the helm.

The Pioneers went on to win six straight titles with Paul Jeffery, Bill Johnston, Ern Sandral and Jenkins all coaching the side at some point over the next five seasons.

Six straight is the most consecutive number of premierships by any current team in the competition.

Coffs Harbour won eight from 1973-1980 before leaving the Far North Coast competition while Lennox Head won five in a row from 2008-2012.

Wollongbar-Alstonville has also had a number of players go on to higher representative honours in the last 10 years.

Centre Alex Gibbon played in the Australian rugby sevens team for several years and was a standout playing Shute Shield for Southern Districts in Sydney.

Gibbon and current first grade centre Daniel Damen were both NSW Player of the year award winners as 17-year-olds.

Younger brother Matt Gibbon plays Super Rugby with Melbourne and has trained with the Wallabies in a camp.

Five-eighth Jake McIntyre made the Australian Schoolboys side when he was a student at Alstonville High School.

He made his Super Rugby debut with the Queensland Reds in 2015 and went on to play 24 games over three seasons.

Talented forward Rowan Perry represented the Australian under-20s team with McIntyre.

McIntyre went on to play in France and is currently contracted with the Western Force.

Further back, second-rower Mike Mitchell played for the Reds in the early 2000s.

Brothers Ben and Josh Damen have also enjoyed success over the years. Ben is a regular starter in the NSW Country Cockatoos while Josh was selected in the national team for Papua New Guinea during a stint in rugby league.

Chris Jarrett and Matt Wright have also played over 400 games. The clubs women's team the Pearls were the inaugural premiers when the competition started in 2019.