Photo Maria Girgenti
Kangaroos made it back-to-back premierships as they produced a clinical 37-18 win over favourites Innisfail Leprechauns in the Cairns District Rugby League A Grade Grand Final yesterday (Sunday) at Barlow Park.
The reigning premiers went into the game as underdogs having finished fourth during the regular season, but were dominant throughout, inspired by brilliant centre Bradley Stephen and inspirational forward Kieran Hayes.
The Leprechauns last won the premiership in 2006, and an Innisfail victory would have capped a remarkable first season at the coaching helm for one of their favourite sons, Ty Williams.
However, Kangaroos, who ended a 26-year premiership drought in last season’s decider, have now made it two premierships in as many years.
Roos coach Michael White was overjoyed at the end of the game, especially as his side had flown under the radar after an up and down season.
“I’m so proud of the guys,” White said. “To play like they did, that was fantastic.
“It’s hard to describe. It’s probably a better feeling than last year because of where we were – most people thought we wouldn’t be playing today.”
“We have always had that belief. We had a good preparation all week, and there was a lot of mateship happening, and that helped.”
Centre Stephen, who was a CDRL Gold Medal nominee this year, was simply outstanding, causing havoc in the Innisfail defence, particularly in the first half.
The most memorable Stephen moment was an outrageous one-handed flick pass to flying winger Jamie Kerwick which led to a Keelan White try on the half-time siren.
That score gave the Roos a 15-6 lead at the break after earlier tries to Kerwick and Jared Allen and a Robbie Amber field goal, with Innisfail hooker Rod Jensen briefly bringing the Leprechauns level at 6-6.
Kangaroos started the second half in equally dominant fashion as Linc Port and Amber scored to push the lead out to 27-6.
Innisfail threatened a comeback as Leith Paton and Corey Davis both scored, while Amber was sinbinned after an altercation with Williams, but it was that man Stephen who eased Roos nerves.
The centre finished off another fine backline combination with Kerwick, and powerful prop Bert Whap produced a barnstorming run in the dying seconds to put the icing on the cake for Roos.
Innisfail captain-coach Williams told The Cairns Post afterwards that his side had been outplayed on the day.
“They were the better side,” Williams said. “They did a great job shutting down our forwards.
“Everyone is hurting in the sheds, but we have had a massive year.
“We didn’t even make the finals last year. The boys will learn from this and be motivated next year.”
It was a day to remember for Kangaroos as they also wrapped up the Under 18s premiership, while Innisfail grabbed a consolation with a Grand Final win in Reserve Grade.
Malanda Eels proved their dominance of the C Grade competition with a crushing 60-16 win over Edmonton.
2014 CDRL GRAND FINALS
Sunday 21 September – Barlow Park, Cairns
A Grade Grand Final
CAIRNS KANGAROOS 37 (Kerwick, White, Allen, Port, Amber, Stephen, Whap tries; Stephen 4 goals; Amber field goal) def INNISFAIL LEPRECHAUNS 18 (Jensen, Paton, Davis tries; Topliss 3 goals).
Reserve Grade Grand Final
Innisfail Leprechauns 36 def Cairns Brothers 20
Under 18s Grand Final
Cairns Kangaroos 34 def Tully Tigers 20
C Grade Grand Final
Malanda (Mareeba) 60 def Edmonton Storm 16