Despite 2020 being a challenging year for both Rugby League Fraser Coast and Bundaberg Junior Rugby League, the two leagues persevered to deliver a successful league season that ended with an exciting grand final day on Saturday.
The historic Eskdale Park in Maryborough played host to this year's premiership-deciding games with more than 800 people rolling up throughout the afternoon to support their team in warm, but pleasant conditions.
It was a perfect start to the day for Hervey Bay, who ambushed minor premiers Brothers 38-10 in the under 13 clash.
The Seagulls raced to a 26-10 halftime lead and despite the Brethren trying to stay in the fight, the ladder-leaders never relented by keeping their opponents scoreless in the second stanza.
Classy fullback Preston King bagged two tries in a man of the match performance, while prolific scoring centre Braidan Houliston and rampaging second rower Caleb Berthelsen each also notched doubles.
Hervey Bay's under 15 side were much like their younger counterparts in their final against Western Suburbs with second rower Kayleb Angeles shedding defenders to open their account in the third minute and putting them on track for a 38-6 victory.
Leading 18-0 at the break, they added an unanswered 20 points with seven individual try scorers, before Wests salvaged a consolation converted try in the last minute.
In a galaxy of stars, potent Seagulls five-eighth Jai Ward took out the player of the grand final title.
It looked like it was Hervey Bay's day when they served it up to Bundaberg Grizzlies in under 16 contest early on, but the Rum City team edged ahead 8-4 at the break and stretched their advantage to 16, with Joel Dickinson chalking up two tries, before the Seagulls got back to within 10 points with nine minutes to go.
But Bundaberg sealed the deal with Riley Kearton forcing his way over with 2.41 minutes left on the clock. Zander Kerr, who took out the Pearce Family Trophy for player of the grand final, then kicked his third goal.
The main game of the day was the under 18 cracker between minor premiers Western Suburbs and Wallaroos played for the first time under the new lights at Eskdale Park.
It was a typical grand final and played in great competitive spirit, which was much appreciated by the many spectators and supporters.
The game flowed end-to-end from start to finish until the full-time siren sounded with the Panthers prevailing 22-18, with the match capping off a great day of rugby league.
The only final not to feature at Maryborough was the under 14 decider that played out in Bundaberg on Sunday with minor premiers Brothers and Waves Tigers staging another epic duel.
With the Brethren throwing down the gauntlet with a first-half converted try to lead 6-0 at oranges, they continued on to triumph 16-4 with unheralded centre Kai Bayley a two-try star.
However, he was beaten for the player of the match by fearless front rower Malachi Solomon, who scored their other try.
Congratulations to the Rugby League Fraser Coast executive committee for the organisation of a great day of rugby league and likewise to the Bundaberg Junior Rugby League for Sunday’s game at the Across the Waves grounds.
The support of both committees, their competing clubs and the tremendous volunteers cannot be highlighted enough during this season as they gave all their young players the chance to compete and play in a safe environment during the COVID-19 period.
Most importantly, it was the clubs' duty of care and ability to deliver that impressed attendees and supporters at all times be at training venues or game days throughout the season.
RLFC / BJRL grand final results
Hervey Bay Seagulls 38 (Preston King 2, Braidan Houliston 2, Caleb Berthelsen 2, Cooper Fitzgerald tries; Charlie Roberts 5 goals) defeated Brothers 10 (Toby Collins 2 tries; Jomar Gustilo goal).
Player of the match: Preston King
Brothers 16 (Kai Bayley 2, Malachi Solomon tries; Dawson Hess 2 goals) defeated Waves Tigers 4 (Tom Morcom try)
Player of the match: Malachi Solomon
Hervey Bay Seagulls 38 (Dane Blanke, Kyal Pitchford, Jai Ward, Eden Wheeler, Kayleb Angeles, Harry Armstrong, Elijah Mason tries; Jonty Brien 4, Eden Wheeler goals) defeated Wests Panthers 6 (Khodi Docherty try, Ryan Bugeja goal)
Player of the match: Jai Ward
Bundaberg Grizzlies 26 (Joel Dickinson 2, Trey Kerr, Riley Kearton, Rhys Felgate tries; Zander Kerr 3 goals) defeated Hervey Bay Seagulls 10 (Kyle Ross, Ruben Broome tries; Michael Cross goal)
Player of the match: Zander Kerr
Wests Panthers 22 (Jensen Deamer 2, Sam Woodman, Joel Baldwin, Damon Qualischefski tries; Joel Baldwin goal) defeated Wallaroos 18 (Lochlan Greenfield, Bailey Eckart, Keian Grogan tries; Tom Colvin 3 goals)
Player of the match: Joel Baldwin