By Michael Thompson - courtesy of the Townsville Bulletin
BURDEKIN Roosters young gun Zac Heron has sealed his team a dramatic 20-18 Townsville and Districts Rugby League grand final win over the Herbert River Crushers.
The hooker scored in the final minute to hand the Roosters their first TDRL A Grade premiership in 12 years, avenging the heartbreak of last year’s grand final loss and a handful of other disappointing seasons where success has been out of reach.
If not for Heron’s final moment of magic, the day’s story would have belonged to Herbert River halfback Mitchell Seri, who engineered his team’s fightback from a 16-6 deficit with six minutes remaining to lead 18-16 with less than two minutes on the clock.
Kicking deep on the restart, the Roosters had a minute to conjure up a winning try when they eventually got the ball back, and it was the Burdekin’s right edge which stretched the Crushers’ defence, allowing Heron to power his way over the line.
The Crushers watched on in despair as the Roosters celebrated a premiership that appeared theirs just moments before, but for the Roosters it was a moment they will cherish forever.
“It was schoolyard footy, just throwing it (around) until something happens, and it happened,” Heron said. “You want it so bad and you do whatever you can to get there.
“This is my first grand final, so I couldn’t believe it – we just had to get up here to this end and we still had time for one more set.”
Roosters co-coach Glen Brock said his team never stopped believing despite Herbert River’s inspired comeback, which was launched when Seri kicked a perfectly weighted restart to himself, leading to a try just three tackles later through Todd Cockburn.
Seri’s clever piece of play suddenly brought yesterday’s clash to life following 74 minutes of scrappy play, and Kyle Inserra crossed in the corner just three minutes later for Herbert River to draw scores 16-all.
Up stepped Seri to attempt a difficult sideline conversion, and he nailed it, sending Herbert River’s supporters into a frenzy as their team led 18-16 with the game all but over.
“We got the message out there ‘let’s just go for the middle, boys and throw everything we have at them – we can’t hold back, we can’t die’,” Brock said.
Seri kicked the game’s first points via a penalty goal after five minutes, and Luke La Rosa got the game’s opening try after 11 minutes, thanks to brilliant second-phase play.
Gregg Hendley got Burdekin on the board after pouncing on a Tyson Stocker high ball that was fumbled in-goal by Herbert River, and Weli Kaifoto’s sideline conversion levelled scores 6-all.
That was how the score remained at halftime, and the second stanza went scoreless for 15 minutes until Burdekin booted a penalty goal, followed by a try from Rainer Power 10 minutes later.
Heron then grabbed his first try to put Burdekin ahead 18-6, leading to Seri’s short restart and the drama-charged finale.
“We never gave up and we talked about playing fast through the middle in the last nine minutes and we did.
“And we finally put a couple of sets together, but obviously it wasn’t enough to hold off a very good Burdekin side today,” Crushers coach Ian Schifilliti said.