The Caloundra Sharks have pulled off the ultimate turn around in rugby league terms, taking out this year’s Caloundra RSL A Grade premiership after finishing last in 2013.
The Sharks downed northern rivals Maroochydore-Coolum 40-20 in front of a healthy crowd at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night to deliver the club its third Sunshine Coast-Gympie Rugby League A Grade title.
The Sharks lurked behind minor premiers Kawana for the majority of the season. But the side coached by Danny Gray peaked at the right time, winning both finals matches and earning two weeks rest in the lead up to the decider.
The win saw The Sharks earn their first premiership since 2009 and put an end to Kawana’s dominance of the local league in recent years.
Caloundra drew first blood when back-rower Luke Gillett crossed in the 11th minute, but the Swans hit back less than 10 minutes later through Luke Mendham levelling scores at 4-alll.
Both teams traded tries up to the stroke of half-time and when Caloundra’s Ryan Stroud scored on the back of a Chris Ainsworth charge-down they went to the break locked at 16-all.
Joint Mal Meninga Medal for man-of-the-match recipient Justin Otto proved to be the difference in the second half, and when he put back-rower Bryson Mahon over in the 52nd minute The Sharks went on a rampage.
Only five minutes later the Sharks’ fellow Meninga Medal winner Lance Ainsworth crossed out wide to cap a memorable night for the fullback.
If the Swans had any chance of making a spirited comeback, their hopes were dashed with 20 minutes to go, when winger Josh Buckland coughed-up the ball, leading to a second try for Stroud.
Buckland had appeared to make amends for his costly error, crossing with 10 minutes remaining. But another dropped ball from a bomb allowed The Sharks’ Kane Lynagh to score with five minutes to go, wrapping up a memorable 40-20 win for Caloundra.
The 2014 S.C.G.R.L season was both successful and challenging; with exceptional performances from a number of players, a mid-season format change, which saw two teams merge and one team withdraw from the competition, the twice-defending premiers being dressed-down in a six-team finals series and a rags-to-riches story for the ensuing premiers.
With the Melbourne Storm taking up a deal with the S.C.G.R.L and Sunshine Coast Falcons for season 2015, exciting times lay ahead for rugby league in the region.
Caloundra RSL A Grade Cup – GRAND FINAL
Caloundra 40 (Ryan Stroud 2, Chris Ainsworth 1, Luke Gillett 1, Bryson Mahon 2, Kayne Lynagh 1 – Tries) (Justin Otto 6 – Goals) def Maroochydore-Coolum 20 (Josh Buckland 2, Troy Mendham 2 – Tries) (Troy Mendham 1, Brad Reed 1 – Goals)
Caloundra RSL Reserve Grade Cup – GRAND FINAL
Caloundra 22 (Chris Farrow 1, Coady Bell 1, Louis Peoples 1, Richard Salu 1 – Tries) (Fred Phillips 3 – Goals) def Caboolture 18 (Tra Kennedy 2, Dan Smith 1, Mark Stimson 1 – Tries) (Nathan Thomsen 1 – Goals)
The Win Network Under 18’s Cup – GRAND FINAL
Cabooltoure 24 (Joshua Totoro 1, Connor Cox 1, Trent Smith 1, Alik Thomson 1 – Tries) (Joshua Totoro 4 – Goals) def Gympie 12 (Jacob Leitch 1, Joe Curran 1 – Tries) (Joe Curran 2 – Goals)
Division 2 – C Grade Cup – GRAND FINAL
Beerwah 13 (Jeffrey Bickford 1, Daniel Kidd 1 – Tries) (Benjamin Jones 2 – Goals) (Daniel Grice 1 – Field Goals) def Coolum 10 (Jamie McBrien 1, Cheyne Gray 1 – Tries) (Nathan Ratcliffe 1 – Goals)
Caloundra RSL A Grade Cup – MAL MENINGA MEDAL
JUSTIN OTTO & CHRIS AINSWORTH – CALOUNDRA
Caloundra RSL Reserve Grade Cup – MAL MENINGA MEDAL
LOUIS PEOPLES - CALOUNDRA
The Win Network Under 18’s Cup – MAL MENINGA MEDAL
JOSH TOTORO – CABOOLTURE
Division 2 – C Grade Cup – MAL MENINGA MEDAL
DANIEL KIDD - BEERWAH