The Queanbeyan Blues first grade rugby league side saved their best for last to win the Canberra Raiders Cup grand final after beating the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs 34-14 at Seiffert Oval on Sunday (8 September).
The game was the classic tale of two halves as the home side overcame a lacklustre first half to pile on 20 points in the second half to secure their fourth title in six years.
Queanbeyan Blues second-rower and winner of the Bradley Clyde medal as man-of-the-match, Josh Stuckey, highlighted the ebbs and flows of the grand final by saying his first half was his worst of the year.
“At half-time, AJ and Campo (the coaches) said to just start again and that’s what I did, and I came out and scored a try that helped set up the win,” the 21-year-old said.
“I’ve played for the Blues since the U6s and wasn’t involved in other wins, but I’m only 21, so it’s the best feeling ever.”
Mind games also played a part with Goulburn five-eighth Mitch Cornish being ruled out after having throat surgery just days before the game. Goulburn players and coaches did all they could to keep it under wraps, and Cornish even warmed up with his team before the game but didn’t play any part in the decider.
Prop forward Steve McLean, who also led the charge of the Blues brigade in the second half, told Region Media that although a few players knew of Cornish’s demise, they did their best not to let it play a part in the grand final.
“We knew about it [Cornish] early in the week but didn’t really tell anyone. It made a massive difference, but you can only play against what’s in front of you, so we just went out there and got the job done,” he said.
“We didn’t play great and we’ve obviously played way better, but we still got the job done, so that’s the main thing.”
McLean also praised the Blues’ younger players, with four U19s players earning their stripes in the first-grade grand final. The Blues U19s recorded their second grand final win in a row, also defeating Goulburn 26-10.
“Young Jack Williams [winger] actually backed up from the 19s and then played for us, and set up a try right at the end.
“It’s great for our future as it’s been a while since a few of the juniors have come through the system for us. There’s a great group of kids there that Neil [U19s coach] has developed.”
He said Blues’ captain Jake Wheeler also led the side perfectly and scored an inspirational try from a short kick-off. The Blues’ youngsters followed suit, with 17-year-old winger Jack Williams setting up fullback Matt Parsons for the Blues fifth try.
While a couple of streakers tried to influence proceedings, Queanbeyan sealed the game and the title after the Blues went the length of the field and Aisea Taholo scored in the corner.
McLean also praised the Blues’ spiritual leader Terry Campese, who called McLean at the start of the year to bring him back into the side.
“Campo just loves Queanbeyan and he loves the Blues and everything about the club. He gets all the juniors involved by having them there for us when we run out. He’s just unreal for the club,” McLean said.
With the Blues’ previous grand final wins going down to extra-time or being decided in the last minutes, McLean said this win really amplified where the club is headed.
“That win was the first time we’ve had the game won a bit earlier than previous, so it was good to celebrate instead of having to worry about the result up to the end,” he said.
“We just needed the Roos [Queanbeyan Kangaroos] to win reserve grade and it would have been a clean sweep for the town.”
- First grade – Queanbeyan Blues: 34 (tries: Z Patch, J Hitchins, J Stuckey, J Wheeler, A. Taholo; goals: T Campese 5/7) def Goulburn Workers Bulldogs: 14 (tries: N Cornish, I Tittor, S Cummins; goals: Hart 1/2, T Cornish 0/1)
- Reserve grade – West Belconnen Warriors 20 (tries: B Graham 2, B McFarlane, J Gardner; goals: B Graham 2) d Queanbeyan Kangaroos 16 (tries: J Macey, M Sullivan, T Robinson; goals: R Elton 2)
- Under 19s – Queanbeyan Blues 26 (tries: A Barlow 2, A Naidu, L Bradley, W Delamere; goals: A Naidu 3) d Goulburn Workers Bulldogs 10 (tries: K Tozer 2; goal: M Flack)
- Ladies League Tag – West Belconnen Warriors 8 (tries: C Watt, J Goss) d Goulburn Workers Bulldogs 6 (try: A Day; goal: A Day)
- Katrina Fanning Shield: Yass Magpies: 18 (tries: Suckling, Massey, Cooke; goals: Massey 1/1 Wright 2/2) def Valley Dragon: 8 (tries: Papalii, Ingram; goals: Ingram 0/1, Ernst 0/1)