Frontrunners cement dominance
Status quo was maintained in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A-Grade Premiership after round 16 at the weekend with top-four sides Hervey Bay Seagulls, Past Brothers, Wests Panthers and Waves Tigers respectively each getting the two points and further distancing themselves from bottom three teams Wallaroos, Easts Magpies and the beleaguered Isis Devils.
Isis remain without a match point despite again giving it their all against Waves at home at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday night, but the Tigers ended a four-match losing streak with a 54-12 victory that resurrected their hopes of a first-three finish with five rounds remaining.
At Salter Oval on Sunday, the high-flying Seagulls moved one step closer to a second straight minor premiership with their 13th win in a row, outgunning fifth-seeded Wallaroos 58-22.
Second-placed Brothers then gained revenge for their shock loss to the Magpies at their previous meeting, beating them 60-24 in a high-scoring affair, while the Panthers picked up the automatic two points for the bye.
Powerhouse Past Brothers centre Matt Martin was the star of the round, running amok with five tries against Easts, but Australian Police and Central Crows senior representative fullback Jake Carl pipped him for points, amassing 24 with two tries and eight goals.
It was also a red-letter day for Under 18 dynamo Addam Grant, who was among the tries on his A-Grade debut.
Martin, a Bundaberg soccer representative star and multiple premiership winning captain in that code for Across The Waves, has been sensational since taking up league late last season, and while he is now only an occasional soccer player, he was backing up after featuring off the bench in Waves' NewsMail Cup final triumph on Saturday night.
Past Brothers moved to 24 points, still six behind Hervey Bay (30), with Wests (22) and Waves (20) still breathing down their neck, while Wallaroos (15) retain a two-point buffer over Easts (13), but Isis, whose only match points have come via their two byes, are on four points and already consigned to the wooden spoon.
Gulls gather pace
At the other end of the scale, the Seagulls just keep going from strength to strength, this time with high-class fullback Alex Braun leading the charge with a hat-trick of tries and quiet achiever Tyson Woodman crossing twice.
Captain and halfback Clinton Horne again led from the front and was involved in everything, including grabbing one try and slotting nine goals for a personal haul of 22 points.
Coach Tye Ingebrigtsen also marked his timely return from a knee injury that he suffered in last year's Grand Final with a try, and the pride of Fraser Coast now needs only to win one of their last four games, against Easts, Wests, Brothers and Waves respectively, to seal No.1 spot and direct passage to the major semi-final.
While they were expected to win, Waves coach Antonio Kaufusi was relieved and very happy with the performance as they returned to the winners' list.
Central Crows representative Rueben Baillie featured with another double, but the most notable performance was that of club prodigal son Ashley Simpson, who was formerly a star in a string of Brothers premierships, who returned to his junior club as coaching director this season and recently came out of an eight-year retirement to help out as a player in Reserve Grade and was among the try-fest in his A-Grade return.
Waves will have the bye this weekend before tuning up for their first finals campaign for eight years against Roos, Easts, Hervey Bay and Brothers respectively, and Kaufusi is certainly targeting a qualifying final berth.
Past Brothers' women also disposed of Easts, triumphing 36-10 with their former multiple Queensland open representative playmaker Nicole Curtis again coming to the fore with a bag of three tries.
Wave Tigers 54 (Rueben Baillie 2, Rohan Gibbs, Ashley Simpson, Zak Bainbridge, Brendan Pimm, Vahiti Hopoi tries; Bainbridge 6, Jackson Paulson goals) def Isis 12 (Warrick Fay, Jack Cole tries; Taylar Barrett, Raymond Stahn goals).
Hervey Bay 58 (Alex Braun 3, Tyson Woodman 2, Billy Stefaniuk, Tye Ingebrigtsen, Clinton Horne, William Elemani, W Nau tries; Clinton Horne 9 goals) def Wallaroos 22 (Shaun Collins 2, Paul Shillingsworth, Ben Turner tries; Harley Brown 3 goals)
Past Brothers 60 (Matt Martin 5, Jake Carl 2, Frances Pearson, Addam Grant, Quade McGrory tries; Carl 8 goals) def Easts 24 (Cody Stibbards 2, Dylan Taylor, Reece Maughan tries; D Taylor, Caleb Gazzard goals)