QUEENSLAND WIZARD CUP
The 2005 Young Guns have become the first team in any grade under the banner of the North Queensland Cowboys to make a grand final.
Having come full circle, inaugural Cowboys coach Grant Bell booked the Young Guns into the Queensland Wizard Cup decider on September 17 with a 22-6 major semi win over defending premier Burleigh.
The result supersedes the previous best result for the Kirwan club, when the Young Guns fell one game short of the NSWRL First Division grand final under Murray Hurst.
Most pleasingly, a bumper crowd was on hand at Dairy Farmers Stadium to witness history being created, spurring the side to complete an undefeated season on home soil.
?The crowd was big and enthusiastic and I think it was good for both sides,? remarked Bell.
Indeed, a high standard of football was on display, with the final margin not truly indicative of Burleigh?s competitiveness.
Resilient defence ultimately gave North Queensland the edge, allowing them to lead 12-0 at halftime and not allowing the Bears to breach the line until late.
Captain Daniel Strickland again was a tower of strength for the Guns, with Jason Barsley strong at the back and centre Gavin Cooper scoring two tries in a man of the match performance.
Interestingly, Cooper was not quite six years old when the North Queensland Marlins won the 1991 Winfield State League, a three-round forerunner to the Queensland Cup.
The Marlins squad of ?91 included the likes of Laurie Spina, Jason Erba, Vince Hollingsworth and Ray Gagai and beat the Central Queensland Capras 44-30 in the grand final. North Queensland was the only country team to ever win the old State League in 14 years of competition.
For his part, coach Bell is unsure who North Queensland will face in the 2005 finale, suggesting Burleigh and Redcliffe have equal claims in next Saturday?s preliminary final at Pizzey Park.
Backline utility David Myles is on report for a high tackle which left Balin Cupples in hospital with concussion, while Neil Sweeney (shoulder) was an early casualty against the Bears.
Bell said his players would face a physically intense week of training, given it is another fortnight until North Queensland appears again.
Burleigh was left to rue several crucial errors, including two mistakes which led directly to tries and a fumbled attempted try by Reggie Cressbrook. Cressbrook also suffered cramp late in the match but will be fit to face Redcliffe
NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 (Gavin Cooper 2, Jason Barsley, Dean Payne tries; Brent McConnell 2, Neil Sweeney goals) beat BURLIEGH 6 (Ali Brown try; Trent Leis goal).
DOLPHINS MARCH ON
Former ?Man of Steel? winner Adrian Vowles has cast aside 34 years worth of aching bones and muscle to inspire Burleigh to a 26-18 come-from-behind victory against Norths.
In a performance that would have been hard to fathom for anyone not at Bishop Park, Vowles treated his body with disdain as he literally threw himself into the task of resurrecting the Bears? hopes of a premiership defence.
Having been thrashed in two earlier lower grade games, Burleigh had not scored in 180 minutes when they traipsed off down 12-0 at halftime in the Queensland Cup qualifying semi.
Yet the visitors somehow found the resolve to return and fight on, completing 17 of 18 sets in the second stanza and scoring four of five tries in almost identical position down the rightside.
Vowles was pivotal to the victory. Set to rejoin English club Castleford at the end of the State League season, he starred in the brutal opening exchanges and gradually unveiled his attacking skills as the match wore on.
After Burleigh grabbed the lead for the first time in the 69th minute, Vowles produced the play which ensured his team got home.
Following through on a kick-chase, he met Devils fullback Quentin Laulu-Togagae with full force and bustled him back in-goal, leading to a Norths drop-out and ultimately Aseri Laing?s second try of the day.
?We?ve been written off in a few circle as genuine contenders these past few weeks, but I thought we showed a lot of character today,? said Burleigh coach Rick Stone.
?We needed someone for that role that Adrian played today. For a 34-year-old he had a tremendous contribution.?
For his part Norths coach Wayne Treleaven was bemoaning the absence of experienced trio Brandon Costin, Anthony Boyd and Rob Tanielu, all of whom would have proved handy in the final moments.
The Devils fielded seven 19-year-olds and were also without gun youngster Greg Inglis, promoted to Melbourne?s NRL squad this week.
Treleaven said normally astute winger Josh Tatupu had come up with ?some bad reads?, allowing a double to Laing in his corner and further tries by Robert Apanui and Trent Leis.
?Playing against a much more experienced team that tried to bash us, I was still proud of the effort,? Treleaven said.
?Put Costin, Boyd and Tanielu in and it would have been a different footy game. We?ve just got to do it (win the premiership) the hard way now. I don?t see any problem getting the boys up for it.?
Following a straight sets exit from the finals in 2004, the Devils will hope to avoid the same fate when they take on Redcliffe in next Saturday?s sudden-death televised match at Bishop Park.
Meanwhile, Burleigh travels to Dairy Farmers Stadium to take on the North Queensland Young Guns, also on Saturday. The match will be the first Queensland Cup semi played north of the Greater Brisbane Area, with the winner to go straight to the grand final.
BURLEIGH 26 (Aseri Laing 2, Robert Apanui 2, Trent Leis tries; Reggie Cressbrook 3 goals) beat NORTHS 18 (Ryan Shortland 2, Marc Brentnall tries; Jeremy Smith 3 goals).
A try to winger Mark Commens two seconds after the final siren has put Burleigh into next weekend?s Mixwell Cup preliminary final against Norths.
Continuing a history of tight results for the Bears? reserve grade side, security worker Commens found the tryline wide open against Wynnum as his side threw the ball around in pure hope.
The end result was a 14-12 win to the Gold Coast outfit, coming after the Seagulls led 12-10 in the final minute.
?It was a try that wasn?t constructed too well. It was basically out of desperation,? Bears coach Jamie O?Connor said.
?Somehow it?s turned up in the winger?s hand in the very corner.?
While the last-ditch effort began a night of celebrations at Pizzey Park, it brought to an end the Wynnum careers of stalwarts Ricky Taylor and Ron Troutman.
Seagulls Mixwell Cup coach Mark Gliddon also ended his stint with the baysiders, having signaled his intention to leave for Souths Logan in 2006.
In last year?s Mixwell Cup finals, Burleigh won the major semi with a field goal and then lost in the grand final with a missed conversion after fulltime.
The irony of the situation is that fullback Phil Ramage was the kicker in the 2004 grand final. On Sunday it was his singular conversion that proved the difference in a three-tries-all result.
BURLEIGH 14 (Mark Commens, Paul Marzella, Faron Anderson tries; Phil Ramage goal) beat WYNNUM 12 (Justin Hoggart, Michael Wilhelmesen, Scott Marks).
Easts is one step away from defending its Mixwell Cup crown, having submitted a wildly entertaining 30-24 major semi win against Norths at Bishop Park.
After finishing minor premiers and enjoying last weekend off, the Tigers were at the mercy of a Norths ambush, with the Devils coming off a 36-0 win against Burleigh.
However a spectacular start from the visitors showed they had lost little touch during their enforced break, as they skipped to an 18-0 lead in 13 minutes.
Hooker Rowan Graham scored in the very first minute of the game with a simple dummy-half scoot, but the two tries directly after were breathtaking to say the least.
In particular five-eighth Josh Henaway?s ?meaty? in the 10th minute brought the crowd alive. Deciding to run the ball on the last, Graham shifted the ball to his left before an interchange of short, crisp passes saw the snowy-haired playmaker again in possession 20m further downfield.
Seemingly cornered, Graham found Donald Malone with an awkward switch of direction inside, leaving Malone to throw a cut-out pass to Henaway under the sticks. In all the ball went through at least six sets of hands.
Three minutes later winger Shane Neumann submitted his own entry for the highlight reel, latching onto an Aaron Kuskey grubber and toeing it ahead with precision. Although the grounding was highly dubious, Easts clearly had the upper hand.
Norths proved they were nobody?s dummies though, and the Nundah mob exhibited pride in responding. Fullback Quentin Laulu-Togagae had the look and touch of a special player throughout and two successive tries from him brought the deficit back to 18-12.
Upon the resumption of play the arm wrestle continued and, in fact, Norths grabbed the ascendancy 24-18 with tries to Brent Mulholland and Phil Wuersching.
It was then up to the Tigers to pull another circus trick out of the bag and they did just that. A former TDRL premiership player with the Burdekin Roosters, pivot Henaway completed his double by finishing a second spectacular movement.
As the clock wound down at 24-all and both sides gave their all, fittingly the game-breaker came to the man in jersey number 17. Coming off the bench Aaron Borey pounced on a grubber that was allowed to bounce in-goal, sending his teammates into raptures.
Looking for their fifth reserve grade premiership in six years, the Tigers have booked a spot in the September 17 finale. Norths faces either Burleigh or Wynnum next week.
EASTS 30 (Josh Henaway 2, Shane Neumann, Rowan Graham, Aaron Borey tries; Josh Henaway 5 goals) beat NORTHS 24 (Quentin Laulu-Togagae 2, Brent Mulholland, Phil Wuersching tries; Trent Henrick 4 goals).
MIXWELL COLTS CHALLENGE
They may no longer be represented in the Queensland Wizard Cup, however the Wests Panthers were the first to book a grand final spot at Suncorp Stadium with a commanding 46-28 win against Norths.
Having scored 110 points in their two finals games thus far, the Panthers have firmed as favourites for the Mixwell Colts Challenge premiership, fought out by players aged 19 and under.
The latest rout by the mountain men began with a try to hooker John Te Reo in just the 2nd minute at Bishop Park on Saturday. After Norths lost the ball on its first set in possession, Te Reo exploited the blind side all too easily.
Prop Shane Eastwood followed up shortly after to make it 12-0 before the Devils struck back via the imposing Jackson Nicolau.
Another exchange of tries brought the halftime score to 18-12, with Wests centre Alex Tallon producing a blistering four-pointer from a Fletcher Holmes offload.
The Panthers? ability to absorb a string of penalties at the end of the first half seemed to position them well for the second stanza and within eight minutes they had edged further ahead 28-12.
On a losing team Norths prop Troy Hansen was a standout and aside from scoring a determined try, popped a beautiful pass that put teammate Matt Lindsay across.
The closest the Devils crept from there was 34-24, but Wests pushed ahead once more with a long-range effort to backrower Nathan Strudwick and an eye-catching Robert Fisher try.
Fisher was gifted the opportunity after teammate Simona Vavega drilled David Kramer on a kick return and the ball bobbled free. Vavega himself had been earlier brutalised in the highly physical encounter, playing the ball sidewards as he attempted to gain his bearings.
While Wests progresses to the big one on September 17, Norths will next week play either Burleigh or Hills District, depending on results tomorrow.
WESTS 46 (Alex Tallon 2, Liam Campbell, Jamie Simpson, Robert Fisher, Nathan Strudwick, John Te Reo, Shane Eastwood tries; Todd Parnell 7 goals) beat NORTHS 28 (Anthony Perkins, Jackson Nicolau, Matt Lindsay, Troy Hansen, Ben Matterson tries; Luke Millwood 4 goals).
MIXWELL COLTS CHALLNGE
Burliegh will feature in a full card of events of Pizzey Park next Saturday, with the Bears to contest preliminary finals in Queensland Wizard Cup, Mixwell Cup and Mixwell Colts Challenge grades.
The Miami-based team will meet Redcliffe in top grade, while playing Norths in both reserves and under 19s, all on the same day.
The fortuitous scheduling was completed after the Bears won minor semis in Mixwell Cup and Colts, but lost the major semi to North Queensland in the Queensland Wizard Cup.
Jim Kocass?s Colts side had the toughest task, forced to rebound from a 64-0 hiding ditched out by Wests the previous week.
Up against the enthusiastic Hills District, the Bears led 12-0 at halftime before going on for a 24-16 victory.
Halfback Murray Emmerson answered a challenge for the team?s leaders to step up and directed his side with aplomb. Again Tim Tripp was dangerous at fullback and featured among the tryscorers.
Coaching staff signaled that Burleigh?s two lower grade sides had been ?embarrassed? about heavy losses in the first week of finals and that the work ethic at training had lifted accordingly.
BURLEIGH 24 (Tim Tripp, Dane Fitzjohn, Blake Morrison, Murray Emmerson, Kane McLaren tries; Tim Tripp 2 goals) beat HILLS DISTRICT 16 (Tu Whakatihi, Chris Chaisty, William Wiki tries; Brad Mckee 2 goals).
The full timetable for preliminary finals at Pizzey Park next Saturday, September 10 is as follows:
Colts Challenge: Norths v Burleigh, 10.30am Mixwell Cup: Norths v Burleigh, 12.10pm Queensland Wizard Cup: Burleigh v Redcliffe, 2pm
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