Bulimba Valleys, the grand final specialists, have again reigned supreme edging out the fighting Irish Brothers Juniors 44-22 in a crackerjack Brisbane Premier grade grand final.
You could be forgiven thinking you were sent back into a time machine to the old Brisbane Rugby League days, as a packed Tapout Energy Stadium witnessed a touch of nostalgia as the Leprechaun’s marched out onto the field to a lone bagpiper.
The team then ran out through a huge Brothers banner that gave the game somewhat a personal touch in what was obviously a very emotional day for both sides.
This latest classic grand final played in front of a bumper crowd, provided more encouraging evidence that the Brisbane Second Division retains incredible appeal to rugby league fans here in Brisbane.
Bulimba’s win takes them to an incredible four straight grand final victories that in itself is a major feat, but when you consider how tough the club do it financially year to year, it is a true testament on how much this means to the supporters and players involved.
A grand final would not be a grand final though if the opening set was not filled with drama. Bulimba captain Cameron Joyce was helped from the field after only two minutes of play. This would set the scene what was to come in order of defence, as both sides kept up the intensity until the final hooter.
Brothers impressive march to the Grand Final looked like continuing again as the Leprechauns were the first to go in and score in the decider. Hooker Ben Munro whose phenomenal work rate around the ruck paid off for the dynamic dummy half, as he burrowed his way over to score beside the posts.
James Marshall converted the simplest of goals to see the Butchers stripes take the lead early on.
But Bulimba hit back straight away. Captain Jai Smith was superb for his team throwing a beautiful cut out pass to find an unmarked Bulimba player to crash in and score a great Bulldogs try.
Smith was unable to land the conversion hitting the upright but the Bulldogs were back in the hunt at 6-4.
Back to back tries for the Bulldogs can only be described as thrilling. The Bulldogs have a reputation of being the entertainers and their second try to winger Luke Hay showed why they have set the benchmark in this competition. The ball was passed through six sets of hands creating a four man overlap and Hay made no mistake planting the ball down in front of the parochial can bar.
Playmaker Joyce back on the field from his ferocious greeting by the Brothers pack, shook off the cobwebs to set up Bulimba’s next try. A beautiful inside ball off the hip found a flying Thomas O’Conner who went in under the posts to score. Joyce’s incredible vision on the field is exhilarating to watch with his Intrust Super Cup background coming to the fore.
At 16-6, you could hardly blame Brothers coach Shane Rout for being a tad nervous. Fullback Tim Obrien was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul that saw his men down to 12, but never underestimate that Brothers willingness to win.
Excitement machine halfback Eli Wickham again showcasing his skills throughout this game, threw an incredible ball to captain Adam Crear who stepped inside the defence to go under the posts right on the half time hooter.
At 16-12, the players and spectators were totally exhausted on what was an incredible first half of football.
With the second half producing more value for money for the punters, it got off to a cracking pace once again and with more twists and turns to add to the mystique of this game, saw Brothers incredibly hit the lead courtesy of replacement William Senior as he took a superb pass from James Marshall and went in untouched.
At 20-16 Brothers reclaimed their mojo and the resurgence could not have come at a better time with only 30 minutes of play remaining to take the title.
But as fate would have it, Bulimba had plenty of petrol left in the tank and what started as a nothing play, saw hulking second rower Aaron Brown beat four defenders to race 30 meters to score an incredible solo try to see the Bulldogs now back in the lead.
The oxygen tank was not only needed by the players, but the spectators as well as the game was played end to end. The lead changing in a blink of an eye encountered a see sawing game that was probably the best $5.00 you will ever spend watching a Grand Final rugby league game.
The transformation of the Bulldogs in the second half however was superb. Their next try was a ripper. Halfback Smith again throwing a lovely pass to find hard as nails lock Dan Waterson who easily crashed in to score. But the try was played down as Waterson was sent to the sin bin in his part in a melee that saw both sides being separated by the referee.
But incredibly with only 12 men, Bulimba against the odds, were still producing some breathtaking plays. Five eighth Joyce again the master of short ball plays, sent in winger Ben Seaton who had his work cut out for him to go in with an inch to spare to record another try for the Bulldogs.
Heroically the Brothers side were holding on as best as they could, but two late tries from powerhouse Bulimba prop Tai Betham rattled the Leprechauns in the dying stages to see the score blow out to 44-18.
But in true Brothers fashion they had one last hurrah in them and gutsy second rower Troy Swift put his name on the scoresheet with a consolation try in the last minute of play.
But hats off to Bulimba. Their phenomenal success over the last four seasons came down to one thing … heart. The club can be proud of the success they have achieved this season and from this game you can be assured that premiership number five is not an impossible dream.