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Bundaberg Rugby League preview: Indigenous jerseys to inspire Past Brothers to minor title

After their “escape from Alcatraz” last week, the equation for Past Brothers is simple – beat Wests Panthers at home in the last round on Saturday and win the Bundaberg Broadcasters A grade minor  premiership.

An incredible comeback last week - trailing Easts Magpies 24-0 at half-time before getting home 28-24 with a converted try in the 77th minute - has put them in the prime spot to claim the title when they take on Wests at 4pm.

If they slip up, Waves Tigers will almost certainly be crowned minor premiers for the second year in a row after they moved ahead of the Panthers on points differential, whitewashing winless whipping boys Hervey Bay Seagulls 122-0 last Saturday.

Wests notched their eighth win in a row last week, with winger Gage Laird bagging a double, in a methodical 34-26 victory over fifth placed Wallaroos to also sit one point back from the lead.

Waves will be favoured to beat Wallaroos in their 5pm showdown at Eskdale Park, even though the Maryborough club always takes a power of beating on their home ground, but they did suffer a 36-22 defeat there at the hands of the Tigers back on April 15.

They now have a points differential of 268 to Wests’ 240, but if they lose, the Panthers can take No. 1 if they are victorious.

In the other game, the result of which will have no bearing on finishing positions, the Magpies will travel to Stafford Park for a Battle of the Birds with Seagulls at 5pm.

Last year’s champions Hervey Bay will be keen to take something out of their winless season from hell in which they have scored just 80 points while leaking a mammoth 926.

Brothers coach Andrew Hamilton knows they will have to play for 80 minutes to end the Panthers’ eight-match winning streak and their own hoodoo.

The minor premiers-in-waiting have not beaten Wests this season, drawing 14-all with them on April 22, and going down 14-6 on May 27.

He conceded that they were caught off guard last week when the Magpies ran in five first-half tries, including four to electrifying Fijian winger Netava Naruma.

“They were pretty hot – they played a bit of ad-lib footy and it paid off for them. We had a completion rate of 35 per cent and didn’t give ourselves a chance to get in the game,” Hamilton said.

“But we addressed it at half-time and controlled the ball and stayed a bit calmer in certain situations in the second. We knew if we controlled the football, we could score points. 24 points was a bit of an ask and we would need luck to win, but we played attacking footy and defended well.

“It was also good to score some long range tries. We stuck to our game plan in the second half and got better and followed the game plan a bit better.”

Brothers opened their account through flying Papua New Guinean winger Benaiah Kambanei in the 48th minute, but the turning point came on the second tackle from the ensuing restart with lion-hearted front rower Tyla Hodge breaking the line and racing 75m to score, eluding several chasers.

Hamilton rated Hodge as the “best player on the field by a fair way”.

He also said the “minor premiership is a focus for us even though it doesn’t carry any great benefit with three weeks off instead of two (between the last round and the major semi-final on August 12). Whether you finish first or third, you still get two bites at the cherry”.

Hamilton said they will welcome back powerhouse front rower Hayden Priestley, winger Tom Kronk, and centre Quintin Olive, and fullback and former dual BRL A grade player of the year Mat Craven will get better each week after two games back from a broken hand.

“Mat has not played much fullback in recent times. We’ve also got four or five guys who have not played much footy for different reasons and they will get better as the season continues on hopefully,” he said.

Apart from being a home game, it will also be Brothers’ Indigenous round, in which they will honour their Indigenous players past, present, and emerging.

They will wear special jerseys with former player Luther Thompson providing the artwork for them. Hamilton said they would be an extra boost for the game that will be won or lost “in the middle”.

“We enjoy playing Wests, they will be hard to beat and a good test for us if they have got not too many out. It will show us where we are at for each team in the semi-finals series. It will be a bit different with everyone available,” he said.

“We have struggled a bit for the last month but we have got the guys to training this week going forward. But Wests have got a big pack and if they are all available, it will be a good contest. Dan Tanner always plays well against us and when they beat us, he is normally man of the match.”

Brisbane Broncos affiliated under 18 winger Tom Morcom cut loose with four tries for the Tigers against the plucked Seagulls last week, while fullback Cody Maughan moved to the top of the leading try scorers with a hat-trick along with centre Jensen Deamer and interchange hooker Kynan Hard. Centre Lachlan Dullaway chalked up a massive 42 points with two tries and 17 conversions.

Morcom was doubling up from their last placed under 18 side’s 32-0 whitewash at the hands of the Seagulls, while Brothers moved to No.1, overtaking South Burnett in their top of the table duel, outgunning them 32-6 with a double to Canterbury Bulldogs affiliated fullback Blake Powter.

It was a good day all-around for Brothers after their reserve grade consolidated their grip on that minor premiership with a 16-12 triumph over the Magpies.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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