Third generation Wests Panthers – second rower Kynan Hard and interchange player Brennan Gynn – both scored their first tries of the season.
It happened as the Bundaberg under 18 high flyers claimed the minor premiership with two rounds remaining with a 34-4 win over Wallaroos in their top-of-the-table battle at Salter Oval on Sunday.
That was after fellow Bundaberg side Waves Tigers were all but sentenced to the wooden spoon after suffering a 38-6 defeat at the hands of their hosts Hervey Bay on Saturday, with the Seagulls placing a mortgage on third place and a semi-final berth in the process.
Electrifying hooker and inspirational co-captain Joel Baldwin again led the scoring for the Panthers with a double and one conversion, taking his season tally to nine tries and 21 goals in seven games.
But Hard – whose father Gordon was one of Bundaberg’s best rugby players during a long and distinguished career, and mother Kim is a daughter of Wests life-time champion Terry O’Shea, who was also regarded as one of the District’s best coaches throughout his career – was relieved to finally crack it for his first four-pointer of 2020 after previously going close many times.
“I did not want to have to do the ‘nudie run’ and time was running out,” Hard said.
“Jensen Deamer also had a good game in the centres, Joel (Baldwin) also went well, and so do Marcy (Tanner).”
Hard is also one of Wide Bay’s best young cricketers and had an outstanding first full season in seniors in 2019-20, including starring in Waves’ Wide Bay Intra-Cup final victory in December.
He was an integral part of the Wide Bay team which won the Queensland Schools Open Boys Championship in Bundaberg in March; but has also played league for the Panthers since starting in the under 6 age group.
The now 17-year-old, who does not turn 18 until January and will be eligible for under 18 again next year, has won many junior premierships in the red and black, including in with his under 16 team last year, when he doubled up most weeks to play with the under 18 side.
Despite having an iron grip on first place with 14 points, four clear of Roos and with a hugely superior for and against differential to them of 189 to -26, Hard knows that everything his side has achieved so far in this shortened season will mean nothing come grand final day and that they will need to maintain their rage if they are to return the silverware to Panther-land.
“We are not the biggest team, but we all feed off each other and when one player steps up, someone goes with him – we are not a team of individuals, we all do our jobs,” Hard said.
“When we are on, we are on, but some days we don’t play as a team – you can tell in the warm-up if we look a bit shaky, but we’ve been pretty good lately and we need to keep that going.”
O’Shea does not get to see his grandson play much these days as he now lives on the Sunshine Coast, but Kynan hopes he will be able to come for the grand final and that he will be able to play his part in making it another great day in the club’s history.
The Panthers will meet the Tigers at the Waves Sports Complex this Sunday before travelling to Hervey Bay to suit up against the Seagulls in the final round.
Last Saturday, Dylan Crockford bagged a double for the third-placed Seagulls who now not only have a four-point lead over the Tigers on the ladder, but also a massive net points differential to them of -22 to -141.
But they will need to rise to another level when they suit up against Wallaroos at Eskdale Park this Saturday in what looms as a dress rehearsal for a semi-final rematch a fortnight later.
It was a mostly a good weekend all-round for the Seagulls, with their under 16, under 15 and under 13 teams each also successful against Brothers 28-12, Brothers 44-4 and Wallaroos 50-0 respectively, with only their under 14 side losing, with Brothers claiming the game 20-4.
Brothers under 13 hooker Levi Monckton recorded most tries for the round, amassing four in a 40-10 blitz of Easts Magpies.
Bundaberg Rugby League Round 8 results
Hervey Bay Seagulls 38 (Dylan Crockford 2, Dylan Bennett, William Thorogood, Lachlan Armstrong, Brock Shepherd tries; David Woodbridge 5 goals) d Waves Tigers 6 (Folau Haveli try, Joel Cox goal).
Wests Panthers 34 (Joel Baldwin 2, Sam Woodman, Jensen Deamer, Brad Clarke, Kynan Hard, Brennan Gynn tries; Marcus Tanner 2, Joel Baldwin goals)d Wallaroos 4 (Tyson Allen try).
Hervey Bay Seagulls 28 (Noah Cain, Jack Roderick tries) d Brothers 12 (Brayden Sander, Lane Crossley-Price tries; 2 goals).
Bundaberg Grizzlies d Wallaroos on forfeit
Hervey Bay Seagulls 44 (Harry Armstrong 3, Tyson Connon, Kyal Pitchford tries; Eden Wheeler 4, Dane Blanke 2 goals) d Brothers 4 (Jordyn Farrell try).
Wests Panthers 42 (Ryan Bugeja 3, Cody Brassington, Lincoln Dwyer, Lewis Palella, Shoeb Abdul, Dominic Bunyoung tries; Ryan Bugeja 4, Lewis Palella goals) d Easts Magpies 0.
Brothers 20 (Travis Larner 2, Blake Powter, Dane Zardus tries; 2 goals) d Hervey Bay Seagulls 4 (Noah Douglas-Denduck try).
Waves Tigers 24 (Coen Philips, Tom Morcom, Jarrod Warren, Sebastyn Brennan tries; Sebastyn Brennan 4 goals) d Wests Panthers 8 (Lucas Brough, Cooper Black tries)
Hervey Bay Seagulls 50 (Tatem Henke 3, Bryan Muhamad 2, Cooper Fitzgerald, Tanner Worthington, Braidan Houliston tries; Michael Parsgaard goal) d Wallaroos 0.
Brothers 40 (Levi Monckton 4, Toby Collins 2, Jomar Gustilo tries; Jomar Gustilo 6 goals) d Easts Magpies 10 (Joshua Garland, Charlie Keech-Reeves tries; Joshua Garland goal)
Waves Tigers 34 (Preston Walsh 3, Jimmy Gear 2, Brody Allan tries; Jimmy Gear 3, Preston Walsh, Brody Allan goals) d Wests Panthers 10 (Johnathon Coyne 2 tries; Darnell Saunders goal)
Main image: Kynan Hard attacks the line for Wests in their under-18 clash with Wallaroos on Sunday. Photo: Supplied