It’s often hard to be objective and to see things clearly when in the midst of the subjective and the maelstrom of passion. And so it is difficult at first passing for many of us to extricate ourselves from the passions of Saturday 19 August 2003 and see it for what it was – a resounding success for the club overall. I don’t aim to minimise the disappointments; we went into the day with all five regular grades playing in semi finals and we came out of the day with only two sides still in the hunt for September glory. I recognise that. Damn I even have the wounds to prove it (like a few others). But for any club, let alone a club that has been where we have in recent years, to not just get every regular team into the finals, but to host the finals as well, in a competition of such size and renown as Sydney Suburban Div1, is an objective accomplishment worthy of real acknowledgement. And that shouldn’t be forgotten in the aftermath of the days results.
However there were a few matches played. So without further ado…
4th Grade (Judd Cup). Lost 31-0.
Supercoach Heller’s Heroes took to Taplin No1 field with clear eyes and good intent on Saturday in the Minor Semi Final. It was our 4th placed lads against the 3rd placed Waverley. The last match between these two was a 10-5 Waves win that was played largely between the quarter lines, was decided on defence and a ‘he who blinks first’ attitude. And all involved felt no different that this match would prove to be similarly tight.
Supercoach Heller’s comments were that the Red Juddies were dominant for the opening 20min of the match but could not convert the pressure into points. And with half time closing, the Waves seized the day with two late pies to take the wind from the Red Juddites sails as oranges were called. Unfortunately, the second half was a more one sided affair. And while Supercoach was clear that the Red Lads didn’t give up and played through to the final whistle, to Waverley’s credit the Waves lifted their intensity and put the pedal to the metal in the second half. And thus the score and game slipped away from the Red Men.
Best & Fairest went as 1pt to Pat ‘Bad Man’ Zadow, 2pts to Dan ‘Crash’ Karooz and 3pts to some blow-in named Pat Newall.
So at the end of the day, our 4ths bowed out. We offer our congratulations to Waverley and wish them well against Colleagues this coming Saturday in the Preliminary Final for the right to front Mosman in the Juddites Big Show on September 2nd. But, despite the formidable scoreline in the end, our 4ths bowed out with chins held high and dignity in their step. There is no doubt the Fourths this year were a vastly improved group on recent seasons in fitness, application, numbers, cohesion and in every metric where it seems to count. It was testament to the numbers involved, the pressure for positions that then created, and the dedication of the group overall that they came as far as they did. Well done lads. Seriously well done. And here’s to having all of you back again next season for what will be a massive year for the club.
3rd Grade (Widdon Cup). Lost 38-0.
Supercoach Scully’s Red Widows charged out as the sole Red Men team to play on Drummoyne Oval proper in good shape after a solid warm-up. Yes some injuries and unavailability’s were hampering the team, but to be fair, injury absenteeism and physical denigration is not unusual at this time of year is it? Their task in the Major Semi Final was simple enough – win and go through to the Big Dance on September 2nd. However simplicity in objective is often not commensurate with simplicity in execution. And standing on the other side of the white line was table-topping Waverley who finished the season with 10 wins from 12 starts and 7 bonus points, with the same objective. The last meeting of these two sides was a 33-7 hammering dished out by the Waves to a depleted and disjointed Red Widows outfit, so the lads were aware of the task before them. But perhaps the lack of finals experience meant the lads weren’t fully prepared for the intensity of the encounter to come.
Comments from Supercoach Scully were that the opening exchanges were a proper arm-wrestle between two clearly committed sides. Indeed the Red Widows seemed to be gaining the upper hand when some enterprising backs play spread wide, finding the elusive skills of Will Barton well displayed in a fine sideline raid, that only fell short of a great opening try when a last-pass went to ground. However shortly after saw the Red Widows commit the howling sacrilege of not playing the whistle and such was enough for Waves to post the opening pie of the day. From there a succession of injuries, pushed passes, missed touch-finders, charged-down kicks and similar skills shortfalls allowed the Blue Waves to gradually take control of the match. The Red Widows were guilty of not executing, being too predictable, not holding their nerve and thus coming up a buck short and a second late against a fit, fast and well drilled Waverley team. And as the injuries mounted, including a special mention to Will ‘Buck’ Barton here, so did the Waverley score skip beyond reach.
Best & Fairest went as 1pt to Buck Barton and Charlie Mannix, 2pts to Harry Stanton and 3pts to Luke Jones.
All is not lost. Yes our Red Widows were beaten by a better team on the day. But the day contained many lessons on where the Waves may be exploited, and where we need to improve, should we meet again. Plus with some key players becoming available again, the Red Widows will be a stronger outfit on the coming weekend as they face a resurgent Colleagues who disposed of Mosman on Taplin 1 by 35-7. So all eyes are on Concord Oval next Saturday for the Preliminary Final as the Red Widows aim to once again pull apart the Colleagues Blues whom they have dispatched twice already this year, including in one famous day where the Red Men were reduced to 13 men for much of the match, and had two tries disallowed, yet still did the job 17-0. So, as my old Dad used to say “What’s done is done and can’t be undone Boy. All you can change is what happens next.” And with that, the Red Widows put the Waves behind them (for now) and focus on Colleagues to the exclusion of everything else.
Colts (Barbour Cup). Lost 22-7.
Following the Thirsty Widows loss, the action relocated back to Taplin 1 whereon the Red Barbourians came into their Minor Semi Final with a chequered few weeks behind them. After being bottom of table in Rd3 and then rising to the dizzying heights of 2nd about a fortnight ago, the lads approached the Minor Semi Final against Colleagues quite aware of their 19-12 loss in their last meeting. But with a near full-strength side to deploy, spirits and expectations were high to reverse that scoreline on this occasion.
Comments from Supercoach Maybank were that with the wind beginning to strengthen on Taplin, the Colleagues lads applied early pressure and had the better of the first half in possession and field position. Against that though, the Red Barbourians had stood strong and went into oranges only 0-7 down which, in the circumstances, was both a good outcome and a scoreline well within reach. And to that end, the second session saw the Red Colts finding holes on the edges of Colleagues on numerous occasions. Whilst one such raid saw a pie to Junior Catallano, duly sauced by Liam Doyle, the remainder of those opportunities weren’t being finished off as they may otherwise have been. Against that, the Blue Boys used their size, cohesion and an astute game plan to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and via posting three more pies of their own, skip out to an unassailable lead as the match drew to a close.
Our Colts loss sees the Colleagues Colts move to Concord next week to do battle in the Preliminary Final with a shell-shocked St Pats, who suffered their first defeat of the season against a resurgent Forest. At the end of the day, the Red Barbourians had a very good season. The coaching team send out massive thanks to Taff, Oli Edwards , Grant, Maso, Johnno Sage and of-course the lads who showed up time and time again. It was clear to see that from the patchy, disjointed conglomerates of seasons past, this year arose a team with some real talent, who could structure some play and who have more than just a smattering of not just talent but potential club stalwarts and legends among them if injury, opportunity and ‘life’ keep them here. For me, I hope they enjoyed their season, that they will always remember when they drank the wine in the Old Stand and whether in 1st grade or 5th grade, I hope to see many of their faces still in Dirty Red for years to come.
2nd Grade (Burke Cup). Won 26-19.
In yet another the Minor Semi Final on Taplin 1, Drummoyne did meet Waverley again. This time it was the Red Burkies, who finished the season in 3rd place, taking on the 4th placed Waverley Waves. The previous meeting of these two protagonists had been a 15-all draw and so the table was set and the stakes were high for a battle royale to unfurl.
Comments from Supercoach Mick were that although we struggled against last-place Forest last week, it felt that everyone was confident, ready and would ‘get the job done’ this week. Accordingly, the brave call was made to play into the blustery wind for the first stanza and look to use it to come home strong in the 2nd. And indeed, this proved a coaching masterstroke as the wind intensity only continued to lift as the day aged and become a real boon for the Red Burkies in the second half. Besides that, the game started off with a bit of back and forth until Waverly exploited their early wind advantage in slotting the first penalty. This approach was replicated by the Waves and they shortly accumulated a 9-0 lead until Liam Corry took a nice intercept and fed it away to Vuniani Gutabau to score the game’s first try (unsauced into the stiffening breeze). However the Waves continued to exploit the wind while they had it and another penalty saw the 1st stanza end at 12-5 to the Waves. The second half started off how the Red Burkies wanted when a huge run from the Red 22 by Lock Alex Wilmore led to a 2nd Red pie, duly sauced by Robbie Labalaba, to take the score to 12-12. The Waves responded with purpose to post a pie-in-reply and skip out to a 19-12 blue lead, but it wasn’t too long before Vuniani would go over again for his second pie from some smart short passing and straight running among the Backs. Robbie converted and the score was 19 a-piece. From there the match was overwhelmingly red. Repeated heavy and hard running, epitomised by the likes of Lai and Mark Ropati, shifted play to deep in the Waves quarter. And from a scrum, Lai charged wide blind, fed a short pass to Joe Colley and so we posted pie number 4 of the afternoon. Another Robbie squirt of sauce saw the score at 26-19 and, despite last minute Waverley desperation, there the score remained.
Best & Fairest was well-spread about with 1pt to each of our three super subs Robbie, Lai and Mark, 2pts to Vuniani Gutabau and 3pts to Alex Wilmore.
The Red Burkies deserve acknowledgement as the only Dirty Reds side to actually win on Saturday. Well done lads. The reward for Supercoach Mick & Co is to strap on the boots and do it all again next Saturday in the Preliminary Semi Final at Concord Oval against the Old Foe Hunters Hill, who lost 29-23 to Colleagues in the Major Semi Final. Our Red Burkies have beaten Hunters in both meetings this year (36-24 and 19-12) and so, as with 3rds, they have the emotional edge coming into the clash to do what must be done to then earn the right to take to Colleagues in the Big Show on September 2nd. But again as my old Dad used to say “Meat and potato first Boy. Then worry about gravy.” Accordingly, Hunters are on the plate first.
1st Grade (Kentwell Cup). Lost 39-17.
The D.Red Kenty’s snuck into the Minor Semi Final in 4th place having lost 2 of their last 3 matches. And they faced a familiar Semi Final foe in Waverley on Taplin 1. Yet the divinations augured well for the D.Reds, especially given the Red Kenty’s had beaten the Waves 38-34 on the bell in Round 11. And so, as the Blue Mountains Goats were putting the sword through Hunters Hill, our own lads took the field with hearts high and expectations higher of putting the Waves to bed.
Comments from Supercoach Mews were that the Red Kenty’s came into the weekend brimming with confidence off the back of the most accurate week of training of the whole season to-date. And the Red Kenty’s followed the lead of the Red Burkies by running into the breeze for the 1st stanza. But running into the wind proved brutal as passes and lineout throws that were sticking like glue in training and warm-up were now going to ground or behind runners. Thus, while the lads were expectant of giving up the lead by running into the 1st half breeze, giving up 22 points and not scoring ourselves by oranges was more than was anticipated and it certainly created a sense of pressure leading into in the second half. That said, the 2nd stanza started well and momentum built to see Tui Longanimasi, Josh Flannery and Evan O’Connor all post pies to put us back into the game at 17-22. However this tide was short-lived as a poor kick-off receipt led to Waverley scoring next and breaking the red momentum. Unfortunately this set a tone and, along with our own increasing error count, the Waves continued to score off our mistakes and eventually ran out 39-17 winners.
Best & Fairest west as 1pt to Siti Waqa, 2pts to Alex ‘Fat man’ Connolly and 3pts to Rubes “I’m no Lock” Brock.
Comments from Supercoach Mews and Sinise were that the result was typical of the season – clear talent on display to score the pies, but inconsistency and lack of execution when it counted snuffing the candles on a winners cake. Expending on that, it was clear this team could score a lot of points on any team, but they were all-to-frequently undone by self-inflicted mistakes when hard on attack that promptly led to points at the other end. All that said, the coaches (and the club) are extremely proud of the effort that the team put into the season that started the second week of January and had interminable interruptions from byes, zone byes and wet-weather weekends. The attendance at training has been great and everyone has been legitimately striving to improve every week. As evidence of that, the team improved from 7th last season to 4th this year and, if one or two close losses had been wins, would have finished 2nd and had the 2nd bite this weekend. So the potential of the squad is well evident on the eve of what will be a massive 2024 for the club.
1 win from 5 matches played is not a good day in and of itself. But that’s not the whole story. And while having five teams make the first weekend of Finals sounds grand, having only two progress to the 2nd week doesn’t sound too flash either. But context is everything. And having all regularly-playing teams make the pointy end of the season at all must be recognised as a fantastic achievement. And to do that whilst hosting the Divisional Semi Finals as well is massive. And then, still having two teams in with a shot at September glory is even better. It speaks volumes of the club, its history and its heart that it has come from where it was and risen back to the pointy end – yet again – of what is a fiercely competitive competition. So acknowledge what has been achieved folks.
And so, brush yourselves off lads and lasses. Take our learnings, lift our chins, focus our minds and get around 3rds and 2nds as they trundle down Lyons Road next Saturday 26 August to do their darndest in the Preliminary Finals against Colleagues and Hunters Hill respectively. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
We aren’t done yet.
For the other rounds