GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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XXXX CITY 22 - XXXX COUNTRY 18
With game-ending knee injuries to Anthony Boyd and Pat Gardner, and teammates feeling the pinch, City clung on to a slender 16-12 halftime lead in front of a crowd of 3000 spectators.
Although Matt Lockyer scored first after the break to extend City?s advantage to 22-12, the match reached fever-pitch when Country winger Trent Purdon posted his second try 15 minutes from fulltime. Separated by just four points, Kevin Walters? troops were forced to dig deep in a tense finale, repelling several attacking raids by a Country side boasting NRL-experienced Leon Bott, Shane Muspratt and Jason Barsley.
?It was like the good old days. A couple of injuries didn?t help our resources and everyone was stretched thin and had to play longer than usual,? said the victorious Walters. ?I think that added to the spectacle and character of the match.?
Certainly the Cloncurry community appeared to be appreciative. Not only did fans stream through the gates, they flocked to a series of events in the lead-up to the game, including school clinics and a Sportsman?s Dinner. Players from both sides were taken aback by the number of photo and autograph requests, with the town organising a community breakfast at 8.30am the morning after the match. There was also a true taste of the Outback, as the squads visited the John Flynn Royal Flying Doctors Service Memorial and the Ernest Henry gold mine.
?This has done wonders for western rugby league to have this event out here,? Cloncurry councillor and event organiser Graeme Lemmon said.
?People have been bursting for it. It?s got all the juniors interested and the local people excited about rugby league. There?s only 3500 to 4000 people living in the town of Cloncurry and we had 3000 here today. ?I?ve been involved in rugby league for 15 years or so and I know personally, this has done my heart the world of good. It?s just like a fairytale. It?s been a terrific week.
?We recognise we?re only a remote country town and to us this is just brilliant.?
One player to impress in particular was City hooker Michael Roberts, a Redcliffe school teacher who curiously enough played junior football in Mackay.
Roberts was named Man of the Match after a tireless and incisive display, adding to credentials that have seen him twice awarded the QANTAS Player of the Year. In 2006 he is again one of the leaders in voting for the coveted mantle.
Recently turned 27, Roberts may have missed his opportunity at the NRL, but has been training with the Brisbane Broncos and is a front-runner for Queensland Residents selection.
Queensland Residents will be named Monday, set to face New South Wales Residents as the main curtain-raiser to State of Origin III in Melbourne. City has now won the annual exchange against Country three years in succession.
XXXX CITY 22 (Jackson Nicolau 2, Adam Starr, Matt Lockyer tries; Luke Branighan 3 goals) d XXXX COUNTRY 18 (Trent Purdon 2, Jordan Atkins tries; Nat Barnes 3 goals) at Cloncurry Showgrounds. Referee: Michael Wise. Halftime: City 16-12. Crowd: 3000.
OUTBACK?S TURN TO SHINE
The boys from the bush put on plenty of entertaining football before a supportive crowd at Cloncurry Showgrounds, winning first in an Under 19s challenge against the Central Highlands and then in an A Grade clash with Brisbane Second Division.
Bearing a famous Queensland Rugby League surname, Mount Isa hooker Danny Goddard scored two tries for the Outback Under 19s as they triumphed 36-10.
In the seniors, Outback fullback Johnny Chapman went one better with a hat-trick, while Barcaldine's Mark Wren grabbed a double in a 50-32 result.
The Outback A Grade side led from the opening minutes, but was forced to battle a spirited Brisbane Second Division side, which featured four tries from the Dayboro trio of Todd McDonald, Gavin McDonald and Adam Heathwood.
Only last year the Outback side was hammered 70-0 in a challenge against a FOGS Cup representative team at Wynnum Manly.
The victory for Outback could be hailed as a serious logistical success, with players brought together from the far corners of Queensland to be coached by Mount Isa's Anthony Kyle.
A recent Outback Muster at Barcaldine saw players trial from as far away as Doomadgee and St George
Both the Outback and Brisbane Second Division teams give valuable representative opportunities to players who may otherwise be overlooked due to their remote location, work or family commitments.
OUTBACK A GRADE 50 (Johnny Chapman 3, Mark Wren 2, Mitchell Munn, Daniel Chilcott, Chris Thinee, Joel Mann tries; Joel Mann 7 goals) d BRISBANE SECOND DIVISION 32 (Todd McDonald 2, Aaron James 2, Gavin McDonald, Adam Heathwood tries; Anthony Dwyer 4 goals) at Cloncurry Showgrounds.
OUTBACK COLTS 36 (Daniel Goddard 2, Francis Oui, Nathan Ramsey, Vili Savuro, Jon Kabay, Daniel Dodd tries; Vili Savuro 4 goals) d CENTRAL HIGHLANDS COLTS 10 (Robert Forse, Matthew Charles tries; Logan Sullivan goal) at Cloncurry Showgrounds.