Centre sensation Letuia Eliu led the charge with a double as the Hervey Bay Seagulls clinched their second 4BU/93.9HitzFM A Grade minor premiersthip title with a last-round 38-24 victory over the Waves Tigers at Childers Showgrounds last Saturday afternoon.
The Seagulls went into the weekend with a one-point lead over Past Brothers and had to win to be assured of top position.
They were always in control after staking their claim early, racing to 12-0 lead and never being seriously threatened by a side which was without their biggest gun in Reuben Baillie, who was suspended for four matches after being sent off against Easts a week earlier.
Wests Panthers, who have had a roller-coaster year, then clawed their way into fifth place and the last position in the finals with a 34-22 victory over hosts Isis Devils.
The Panthers then had to wait until the last fixture match of the season between the Wallaroos and Easts Magpies at Salter Oval on Sunday afternoon to see if they held on to fifth.
The stakes were high for the Magpies as they suited up against the third-placed Roos, needing at least a draw to regain fifth place.
After trading tries to trail just 12-10 after 19 minutes, they were unable to add to their account as Maryborough’s flag bearers added two more converted tries to win 24-10 to the cheers of the Panthers; sentencing their opponents to season oblivion and leaving them ruing a couple of wins that got away from them during the course of the season.
For the Wallaroos, it was a perfect warm up for their qualifying final showdown with Past Brothers on Saturday week.
Past Brothers blitzed Maryborough Brothers 76-4 in the first A Grade game on Sunday’s footy feast, one which had no bearing on finishing positions.
With no games this weekend due to the BRL Presentation Dinner being the focus, the minor premiers Seagulls, will not play again until the major semi-final on Saturday fortnight against the winner of the qualifying final between Past Brothers and Wallaroos.
They went into last year’s grand final triumph having played just one game in five weeks, so lack of match practice is not insurmountable, and while they have lost just two fixture games this campaign, they are not the same force as 12 months ago.
Looking ahead, form front rower Anthony Broome was a beacon for Waves with a double, but while they should easily overcome Wests in the finals’ first week eliminator, Baillie will not return this season unless they reach the grand final. They are also a far cry from the potent unit which went agonisingly close to claiming a drought-breaking title last September.
Wests could muster a bare 14 men for their trip to “The Furnace”, but they showed the spirit they have displayed all season after losing many of their stars from last year when they were unlucky in to be knocked out by Waves in extra-time in the preliminary final.
They were too hot for the Devils with powerhouse forward Ilaiasi Pongi giving them the edge with a double. No-one can begrudge them their place in the play-offs after being battered from pillar to post for large chunks of the season, but never flying the white flag and continuing daring to dream.
As always, Maryborough Brothers also never shirked the issue, but their Bundaberg cousins proved to be in a different league, establishing a 32-0 halftime lead and going on with the job to finish with 14 tries.
Every player did well for Bundaberg’s highest placed side, but centre Reuben Olive had a big day out, scoring their opening try in the fourth minute, finishing with four including their last try, which he also converted.
His brother five-eighth Quentin, three-quarters partner Tyrell Priestley and his brother Hayden, and flamboyant winger Daula Ellison each notched a double.
Easts were also always going to do it tough without their suspended game-breaking player/coach Mat Templeman against a Roos team which is a genuine contender for the crown.
While they too gave it their all, Maryborough’s big hopes won the battle with "prodigal son" powerhouse forward Will Jung (who was part of the Seagulls rise to the top for the previous few years), coming to the fore with a double, whilst former dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year centre Shaun Collins continued his stellar season with another four-pointer.
Meanwhile, Past Brothers signed off on the Reserve Grade minor premiership with a 40-28 despatch of Maryborough Brothers in their top-of-the-table showdown and Easts secured fifth spot with a 48-26 win at the expense of their elimination final opponents Wallaroos.
Past Brothers also took out the Under 18 minor title, beating Hervey Bay 20-12, while in the Women’s division, Past Brothers put the polish on another table topping season with a 16-0 shut-out of Burnett Heads and first-season side Isis wound up third with a 26-18 triumph over second seeds Hervey Bay.
ROUND 16 A GRADE RESULTS
HERVEY BAY 38 (Letuia Eliu 2, Billy Stefaniuk, Steven Brudzinski, Damien Otto, Heti Kafoa tries; Clinton Horne 7 goals) defeated WAVES 24 (Anthony Broome 2, Jackson Paulson, Sekope Tua, Robert Nona tries; Daniel McLennan 2 goals)
WESTS 34 (Ilaiasi Pongi 2, Tyson Kane, Joshua Johnson, Tyson Douglas, Hayden Tanna tries; James Prichard 5 goals) defeated ISIS 22 (Jack Rowan, Jayden Alberts, Royce Blair, Steven Pershouse tries; Taylar Barritt 3 goals)
PAST BROTHERS 76 (Reuben Olive 4, Tyrell Priestley 2, Hayden Priestley 2, Quentin Olive 2, Daula Ellison 2, Willie Nagas, Aaron Kuskey tries; Tyrell Howard 7, Quentin Olive 2, Reuben Olive goals) defeated MARYBOROUGH BROTHERS 4 (Lincoln Willmot try)
WALLAROOS 24 (Will Jung 2, Brandon Law, Shaun Collins tries; Luke Waters 2, Jack Horder goals) defeated EASTS 10 (Cody Stibbards, Caleb Gazzard tries; Tyrone Ward goal)
LADDER AFTER ROUND 16: Hervey Bay 28, Pasts Brothers 27, Wallaroos 20, Across the Waves 18, Western Suburbs 14, Eastern Suburbs 13, Isis 5, Maryborough Brothers 3
For all the latest information on the 2017 4BU/93.9HitzFM BRL Competition, head to the Bundaberg Rugby League website.