Past Brothers have become the favourite siblings of Bundaberg, securing this year’s A Grade premiership with a 22-18 win over the Wallaroos.
The Brethren went into Sunday’s Bundaberg Rugby League grand finals chasing a clean sweep of premierships, with representation in all four divisions; but they were pipped at the post in the first two games.
Wallaroos came from behind to beat them 26-22 in the Under 18 decider, then Maryborough Brothers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Reserve Grade with two tries in the last nine minutes and a Gareth Willmot conversion in the dying seconds getting them home 28-26, completing back-to-back titles.
The margin was also just two points in the Women’s decider, but in that match, Past Brothers hung on to edge out Isis Devils 16-14 for their sixth premiership in the seven-year history of the competition.
The stakes were highest in the 4BU/93.9HitzFM A Grade decider and Past Brothers were favourites, but Maryborough’s Roos got an early jump on them and led throughout until the 77th minute when, trailing by two points, the home town’s representatives drove a dagger through their hearts.
Mercurial five-eighth Quentin Olive, who had been mostly well contained up to that point, sent Brothers’ supporters delirious when he received the ball on their 30m line, found a gap on the left and turned on the after-burners, as he has done many times throughout the season. He was confronted by the last line of defence, so then presented a perfect pass for winger Kane Chapman to finish off the play.
Olive also converted after he had landed the sideline kick from the try by champion hooker Brent Kuskey in the 54th minute after having taken over the kicking duties from Under 18 halfback Tyrell Howard who was off the field at the time.
Earlier, Past Brothers had kicked off to start the game and while they were able to gain possession of the ball and go immediately on the attack, they lost it on the third tackle. This was the first of a number of mistakes they committed over the next hour and a quarter.
Wallaroos on the other hand were primed for combat and after first showing their defensive muscle, drew first blood after five minutes with winger Sam Hutchins crossing for a simple try on the right flank.
Crafty halfback Luke Waters took over from regular kicker, hooker and captain Jack Horder, and raised the flags with the ball rebounding off the left upright over the bar.
Horder then stepped up to the plate to slot a penalty from in front of the sticks in the 18th minute, before their other winger, Josh Crowley, stretched their lead to 12-0 with a four-pointer in the left corner after the Brethren had coughed up the ball on the first tackle.
Past Brothers finally opened their account in the 25th minute with dynamic fullback Willie Nagas crossing from a scrum soon after Kuskey and his elder brother and impact interchange forward Aaron forced a Roos lost ball from the restart.
The Bundaberg side then had a try disallowed for what was ruled as a forward pass from Nagas to Olive’s younger brother and potent centre Rueben seven minutes later, but they were not to be denied with some Kuskey magic coming to the fore.
Four minutes before the break, Brent swivelled in a tackle on the Roos line to present the pass for Aaron to go over and Howard added the extras to get the Brethren back in the contest.
Howard was then sin-binned for a minor altercation with 1.18 on the clock, and during his absence, the Roos took full toll with uncompromising prop David Ball powering over on the back of a penalty six minutes into the second stanza to re-establish an eight-point lead.
Back to a full complement of players, Quentin Olive’s conversion of Brent Kuskey’s try, largely attributable to a few penalties, got Brothers back to within two points with 26 minutes remaining.
For the next 22 minutes however, they continued to not build pressure as the clock ticked away and panic increasingly set in.
It looked more and more like they would be the bridesmaids after they failed to find touch from a penalty in the 63rd minute and had another forward pass ruling against them from what appeared to be a perfect pass from Aaron Kuskey to another veteran, ‘super sub’ Jarrod Johnson with the try-line beckoning in the 74th minute.
But the rest is now history, despite having to endure more anxious moments when the Roos had a scrum feed just in Brothers territory with 28 seconds remaining, only to knock-on on the second tackle.
Quentin Olive received the Les Somerville Medal (player of the final), but there were many other standouts.
2017 Les Somerville Medallist - Quentin Olive. PHOTO: Michael McGaw
The Brethren were headed by their warriors with powerhouse second rower Aaron Hall, Brent Kuskey, captain, front rower and BRL A Grade Representative Player of the Year Kevin Sherriff, workaholic lock Boe Zimmerlie, lightweight front rower Tyla Hodge and rugged second rower Hayden Priestley all racking up 48, 40, 27, 26, 24 and 20 tackles respectively to lead the defensive charge.
Sherriff also made 16 hit-ups, second only to Rueben Olive with 17.
It was Brothers’ sixth A Grade premiership in the past 10 years and their 22nd in 71 seasons since making their debut in the 1947 season.
Brent Kuskey, who took the coaching reins this season after the defection of Mat Templeman to Easts, his brother Aaron, Sherriff and vastly improved interchange front row impact strongman Mat Ohlbrecht were the only survivors from their previous grand final triumph of two years ago.
After playing in his first A Grade grand final triumph with Wests in 2006, Brent first spent five great seasons at Brothers from 2008-12, playing leading hands in guiding them to the grand final every year and winning four of them.
He was then recruited by Wests as captain / coach for the 2013 season, and took a number of players with him including his brother Aaron and Zimmerlie, who received the Les Somerville Medal in their grand final win over Brothers that year.
Kuskey then spent season 2014 with Gin Gin in the Northern Districts Rugby League, before returning to Brothers the next season and again playing a major role in their return to premiership glory.
He made a late start to last season with Brothers, but the season was ended prematurely with the side ultimately ousted by Wests in the minor semi-final.
This year was a homecoming season for Hall, who transferred from the Panthers with the Kuskey’s for the 2008 season and was also a big part of the club’s golden years before being recruited by Gladstone Valleys six years ago and featuring in one premiership for them before having last season off, prior his return to Bundaberg.
Victory was extra sweet for 21-year-old Hodge, a club junior product who started in Under 12s and had never previously been part of a grand final winning team.
The Olive brothers, another set of siblings Hayden and Tyrell Priestley, Nagas and Chapman all transferred from Wests this season, although for Nagas and Chapman, it was a home-coming after finishing their junior careers with Brothers.
Their team also included flashy winger Daula Ellison, a 21-year-old Papua New Guinean, who is studying aviation at CQ University Bundaberg Campus, but learnt the game while he was a boarding student at rugby league passionate St Theresa’s College, Abergowrie.
In the Women’s final, Past Brothers led 8-4 at oranges and held on to prevail four tries to three with former Queensland representative fullback Kady Tinker picking up another player of the final gong under their first-season coach Andrew Filo.
It was a bittersweet moment for Filo after having played in their losing Reserve Grade decider in the previous game.
The Devils, who were coached by Past Brothers’ mentor of the previous two campaigns, Glen Darby, got to within two points with a try to high-class Cherbourg utility Amber Saltner, but she failed with her conversion attempt, and while they created several more scoring chances in the dying minutes, the Bundaberg girls put their bodies on the line to jealously guard their slender lead to the end.
The boot was on the other foot for Past Brothers’ Reserve Graders, who led 20-12 at the break and while both sides finished with five tries, their Maryborough cousins kicked one more goal than them.
Centre Harvey Warner bagged a double for the Heritage City Brethren, but centre Trevor Davidson, who scored the try to get them to within four points in the 71st minute, claimed the player of the final honours despite Past Brothers winger Mitchell Gaul snaring a hattrick.
Past Brothers were Under 18 minor premiers and had also beaten the Roos in the major semi final two weeks ago, but their Maryborough rivals took a 16-10 halftime advantage and fought back after being headed in the run home.
Another disallowed try to Past Brothers cost them dearly as Wallaroos hit the front with a try to blockbusting second rower Liam Rushton-Drake 10 minutes from the end, with Rigan Nielsen’s conversion extending their lead to four points, which they held through to the siren despite Past Brothers throwing everything at them.
Roos halfback Will Tanwan, who pulled the strings of a slick team performance, received the match award for best and fairest from a galaxy of stars from both sides.
GRAND FINAL RESULTS
A GRADE: Past Brothers 22 (Willie Nagas, Aaron Kuskey, Brent Kuskey, Kane Chapman tries; Quentin Olive 2, Tyrell Howard goals) defeated Wallaroos 18 (Sam Hutchins, Josh Crowley, David Ball tries; Luke Waters, Jack Horder, Joel Richards goals)
RESERVE GRADE: Maryborough Brothers 28 (Harvey Warner 2, Tyrone Murray, Trevor Davidson, Ryan Gauld tries; Gareth Willmot 4 goals) defeated Past Brothers 26 (Mitchell Gaul 3, Chris Rose, Jamie Turnbull tries; Robert McKeown 2, Brendon McKeown goals)
UNDER 18: Wallaroos 26 (Dylan McCrae, Hamish McKinnon, Phillip Alberts, Will Tanwan, Liam Rushton-Drake tries; Rigan Nielsen 3 goals) defeated Past Brothers 22 (Dailie Coffison 2, Josiah Purcell, Brendan Stewart tries; Layton Chambers 3 goals)
WOMEN: Past Brothers 16 (Kady Tinker, Rebecca Kenny, Jazzman Melling, Morgan Engstrom tries) defeated Isis 14 (Tearnee Morrice, Laureen Faithfull, Amber Saltner tries; Amber Saltner goal)
PLAYERS OF THE FINALS
A Grade: Quentin Olive (Past Brothers)
Reserve Grade: Trevor Davidson (Maryborough Brothers)
Under 18: Will Tanwan (Wallaroos)
Women: Kady Tinker (Past Brothers)