Wallaroos make a statement in Bundaberg

Classy centre Brandon Law (pictured above right with Will Jung) notched a hat-trick of tries as Wallaroos made an opening round statement in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership with a 32-6 win over a disappointing Easts Magpies on a rain-soaked Salter Oval on Saturday night.

Law’s centre partner Brandon Clayton scored the first A Grade try of 2019, but while the Magpies put their beaks in front with a try to front rower Corey Chapman and conversion to Dylan Taylor in the 14th minute, that was their only joy of the game.

Rampaging front rower Will Jung reclaimed the lead for Maryborough with a signature try nine minutes later, before Roos bounded away in the mud with back-to-back tries to Law in the space of just over four minutes leading into the break.

Jung sent would-be defenders crashing over like tenpins from short range to complete a double seven minutes into the second stanza, with Rigan Nielsen kicking his second goal for a commanding 18-point advantage.

As conditions worsened, handling become increasingly difficult, but Law inflicted further damage with his third try with 18 minutes remaining, before winger Daniel Craig put the icing on the cake with their seventh try three minutes from the end.

Crafty halfback Luke Waters, who was brilliant throughout, was the official Man of the Match, edging out Jung and Law.

Roos will face probably the toughest test in the league in their grand final return clash with Waves Tigers, who had the first round bye, at Salter Oval this coming Saturday night.

In the game that followed, in conditions which had deteriorated with the deluge into a mudbath, the new-look Past Brothers, who missed the finals for the first time in years last year, toughed out a 20-6 win at the expense of Easts Magpies, who were rated by some as favourites to claim the crown.

Brothers’ returning brigade included hooker Brent Kuskey (player / coach for their 2017 premiership), rampant second rower Mat Templeman and prolific scoring centre Tien Nguyen, who was their Man of the Match in their 2015 grand final triumph.

Tien Nguyen and Brent Kuskey
Tien Nguyen and Brent Kuskey

Wests had upset the Brethren 28-4 in the first round last year to derail their title defence, but Nguyen picked up where he left off in his last game in the Blue and White in the 2015 decider, crossing in the left corner in the 10th minute, before Panthers’ 2018 BRL A Grade Player of the Year, front rower James Prichard, hit back four minutes later and converted.

But those were to be their only points on the night, with Brothers regaining the lead with a signature Brent Kuskey try in the 22nd minute, showing his strength to brush through defenders and plant the ball one-handed, before fullback Zak Bainbridge, an original Brothers junior, converted for a 10-6 lead, which was to be the half-time score

Brothers edged further ahead with young front rower Brendan Stewart forcing his way over five minutes into the second stanza and Bainbridge again adding the extras.

“It is great to have so many of the boys back together – we have got some new and some old, and some key members of our 2015 premiership.”

Steven PlathBrothers coach

The slog-athon continued with the defence by both sides brutal and a lot of dropped ball as it became like a piece of soap but Nguyen virtually sealed the result with his second try in the 67th minute.

Brothers coach Steven Plath said it was good to start with a win.

“In the wet, we needed to be committed in defence and we were – our attitude and our extra efforts were good, and we had good shape early and our attack will come in dry conditions,” Plath said.

“It is great to have so many of the boys back together – we have got some new and some old, and some key members of our 2015 premiership.”

Plath said winger Ned Thompson was his Man of the Match and also took out their Players’ Player award.

“Ned was very committed at the back as well as making many solid carries back, and honourable mention must also go to captain Kevin Sherriff and Brent Kuskey, but everyone was good,” he said.

Meanwhile, the women’s showdown showcased a galaxy of stars with Australian Jillaroos, Queensland State of Origin and Broncos NRLW premiership winning fullback and QRL columnist Chelsea Baker returning to her hometown Gladstone Wallabys side and the Past Brothers outfit including former Queensland open representative aces, team stalwart Nicole Curtis, who started on the bench, and fullback Kady Tinker, who was returning after missing last season.

Baker scored a try and kicked two goals, but the Brothers’ women had too many guns, kick-starting their quest for a fifth straight title and their ninth in the 10-year history of the competition, getting home 26-16 with 18-year-old Zara Johnson-Gamia, who was a member of the Waves Tigers losing grand final team last year, also coming off the bench to grab two tries and Nicole Curtis racking up 10 points with one try and three goals.

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Earlier, Wallaroos also blitzed Easts 38-18 in Reserve Grade after putting their stamp on the match by establishing a 38-18 half-time lead.

Evergreen five-eighth Ivan Mimi, 43, was at his vintage best, including bagging a hat-trick, while on the eve of his 21st birthday, former Waves hooker Jackson Paulson was the stand-out on club debut for the Magpies, amassing 14 points with two tries and three conversions.

After a disastrous last season, Past Brothers’ Reserves kicked off the new year with a win, with a double to fullback Dylan Arndt spearheading them to the points against Wests, 42-28, but they could have been expected to do better against a 10-man Panthers.

In the A Grade encounter at Eskdale Park Maryborough, the Hervey Bay Seagulls, who were in danger of not being able to field a team this year due to financial and administrative difficulties, proved in a different class to Maryborough Brothers, who also won a mere one match last year but recorded a slightly better nett points differential to the Seagulls.

The Baysiders ran in for a 72-0 win with two tries each to electrifying former New Zealand junior representative five-eighth Logona Vetemotu, centre Lee Muckan, front rower Tyson Miller and interchange player Jayden Johnson.

Vetemotu, who was returning to the club after being one of the best in the competition during his one previous season with the Seagulls in 2017, also kicked 10 goals in a 28-point haul and his presence in a rebuilt side will ensure that they are a force once again.

But their showdown with Easts in the first game of the A Grade triple-header at Salter Oval this Saturday will give a better indication of exactly where they are at.

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In the Reserve Grade match in Maryborough, Bundaberg’s Burnett Cutters marked their return into the BRL with a strong 26-12 victory over the Seagulls with Phillip Lindsay snaring two tries and fullback Bobby Wright posting 10 points with one try and three goals.

In the Under 18 game, Wests started their title defence with an 18-18 draw with Wallaroos, with winger Nathan Sibbald picking up a double, while in Maryborough, Waves Tigers laid claim to favouritism for the title with a 32-6 blitz of Hervey Bay, with doubles to explosive five-eighth Lachlan Santana, who also kicked three goals, and dynamic hooker Corey Picaro.

Bundaberg A Grade Results

Wallaroos 32 (Brandon Law 3, William Jung 2, Daniel Craig, Brandon Clayton tries; Rigan Nielsen 2 goals) def Easts 6 (Corey Chapman try, Dylan Taylor goal).

Past Brothers 20 (Tien Nguyen 2, Brent Kuskey, Brendan Stewart tries; Zak Bainbridge goal) def Wests 6 (James Prichard; Prichard goal).

Hervey Bay 72 (Lee Muckan 2, Logona Vetemotu 2, Tyson Miller 2, Jayden Johnson 2, Casey Russell, Ryan Hockley, Jayden Sheppard, Tiko Hooper, Steven Dwyer tries; Vetemotu 10 goals) def Maryborough Brothers 0.