Dynamic fullback Jayden Alberts bagged a double and took out the coveted Les Somerville Medal for A Grade player of the grand final as Past Brothers completed a golden decade with a tough 32-28 victory over Waves Tigers at Salter Oval on Saturday night.
The win saw the club take out their sixth Bundaberg Broadcasters Premiership in the past 10 seasons, clearly being the team to beat throughout the 2010s.
After missing the finals for the first time in many years in a tough 2018 campaign, they had to pull out all stops to oust the defending champions in a pulsating and classic grand final, with both sides scoring five tries.
However, the boot of five-eighth Zak Bainbridge, who was part of Waves’ beaten grand final side three years ago, was the difference as he was successful with all his attempts, taking his season points tally to 198 from eight tries and 83 goals.
Seventeen-year-old Waves winger Lachlan Santana, who had made his A Grade debut in the qualifying final and was backing up from their Under 18 grand final loss earlier in the day, stunned the Brethren when he scored after two minutes.
He repeated his heroics at exactly the same point in the second stanza, taking his finals haul to six in four games, after Brothers had led 14-10 at the break.
The minor premiers replied swiftly with Alberts’ first try, but the reigning champions rallied again and took a 28-20 lead in the 55th minute with two tries in quick succession after winger and Under 18 captain Sam Tobin again did brilliantly to score; then powerhouse second rower Kristian Colasimone strolled through with ease and veteran Clinton Horne converted both.
But Brothers regrouped and responded with a second try to second rower Hayden Golchert, then with Alberts driving a dagger through Waves’ hearts with his second gem. Bainbridge added the extras for both for a 32-28 lead with 14.30 remaining.
Both defences aimed up as the battle went right down to the wire, and Waves looked to set to score with 50 seconds left when they again exploited an overlap on the right, but the last pass was correctly ruled forward.
After a season in which they lost just two games, Brothers’ Steve Plath later announced that he would be stepping down after five years as firstly assistant coach, then coach, to devote more time to his family.
It was also a fitting farewell for retiring veteran champions; hooker Brent Kuskey and rugged forward Mat Templeman, both former player / coaches.
Templeman, 35, was backing up after playing for the Queensland Fire Service against the Queensland Police Service in the September 11 Commemoration Match in New York earlier in the week.
For Kuskey, 31, it was his eighth A Grade premiership and his sixth for Brothers, his first with Wests in 2007 and he also led the Panthers to triumph over the Brethren in his one season back with them in 2013.
For Templeman, who was part of the Souths Logan Magpies team which won the Queensland Cup 2008, it was also his sixth premiership in the Blue and White after missing their previous title in 2017 when he had been recruited as the Easts player / coach, but he returned this year after being an assistant coach for Isis Devils in 2018.
Brothers increased their lead in the total number of A Grade premierships in BRL history, notching their 23rd title since the club was formed in 1947, winning it for the first time in 1953.
The won it again in 1955, 1966-1967, 1971, 1985-1986, five years in a row from 1991-1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, three straight years from 2010-2012, 2015 and 2017.
Easts, formerly Natives, are second on the list with 19.
Inspirational captain and Central Crows representative front rower Kevin Sherriff led from the front, being an integral part of his third premiership in five years since moving to Bundaberg in his profession as a school teacher.
The 27-year-old, who married shortly after their 2017 grand final triumph and became a father for the first time this time last year, described it as an ugly win and declared he had at least another five good playing years left in him; wanting to add to his premierships list.
“We ground it through – we knew it would be an 80-minute battle and for a time it was tit for tat but the defensive physicality in the main won it for us,” Sherriff said.
He lauded Alberts as their best by far on the day and Kuskey for a signature performance.
“Also (club president) Logan Tanzer off the bench, also provided great energy and Hayden Golchert’s second try was on the end of Logan’s first two carries,” Sherriff said.
“Credit to Steve Plath also for five great years and three premierships – I have all respect for him and he will leave a massive hole and we will need to find someone as good as him to fill that hole.”
Plath said it took backs to the wall stuff.
“We had to dig ourselves out and I’m just the proudest bloke in Australia – this side never gives up – I don’t know how they got out of the hole but they found a way to get in front, then in the last 15 minutes, we just defended our way to victory, as we have all year,” the veteran coach said.
“We are a team and the ‘Sparkles’ call (named after club life-time champion Michael “Sparkles” McGaw who lost his battle with cancer in his 40s in June) went out whenever we were in the fight and the boys found that bit extra.
“Some of the boys went to see him the day before he died and the one thing he wanted was to see Brothers win another premiership – he obviously could not do that but he was watching up top and the boys got the job done for him.”
There were many other stars, including young forward tyros Golchert (21), Tyla Hodge (23) and Brendan Stewart, who have all come through the Brothers system since starting their junior careers.
Four players who were reunited this year after playing together through their junior days were also major contributors.
Bainbridge and his unsung halves partner Taylar Barritt, second rower Josh Birch, a former Australian Under 15 Merit Team and Newcastle Knights Holden Cup team member, and hard hitting centre Tyrell Priestley.
While Kuskey missed out on a try, he was happy to pass the baton to his younger brother Ben, who scored their first try and will help fill his shoes next year.
Seventeen-year-old winger Jake Bonus followed in the footsteps of his father, winning an A Grade premiership at a young age, doing so in 2001 in his first year out of Under 18.
Anthony went on to play NRL from Illawarra Steelers, Parramatta and Melbourne Storm in a distinguished career, and Jake too will chase higher honours, being close to signing for Easts Tigers Colts for next year.
Tanzer, who took over as club president last October, was proud to be able to lead the team back to glory days.
“It was tough, but I knew if we stuck to our processes, we would come away with it,” Tanzer said.
“We were very disappointed to finish sixth last year and this is a massive turn-around and it is credit to the club, coaching staff and of course the players, and even with a couple of players retiring or moving away, the plan is to try and keep this core together and do it again next year.”
Past Brothers 32 (Jayden Alberts 2, Hayden Golchert 2, Ben Kuskey tries; Zak Bainbridge 6 goals) defeated Waves Tigers 28 (Lachlan Santana 2, Ben Ashford, Sam Tobin, Kristian Colasimone tries; Clinton Horne 4 goals) at Salter Oval, Bundaberg.
In other results, a Dylan Taylor double has seen the Easts Magpies narrowly clinch the honours in Reserve Grade, downing Wests 28-22.
Meanwhile, it was a double whammy for Waves as the Hervey Bay Seagulls upset the Under 18 minor premiers in the first game of the day, 26-16.