14 September, 2023

Gallant Wolves fall short in grand final

A STIRRING comeback from the Stanley River Wolves wasn’t quite enough in the Sunshine Coast Gympie Rugby League (SCGRL) reserve grade grand final, as the Bribie Island Warrigals prevailed 30-28 at Sunshine Coast Stadium last Saturday, September 9.

Lance Ainsworth makes a break for the Stanley River Wolves during their grand final defeat against the Bribie Island Warrigals. Photo credit: Nicola Anne Photography.
Lance Ainsworth makes a break for the Stanley River Wolves during their grand final defeat against the Bribie Island Warrigals. Photo credit: Nicola Anne Photography.

The tiny margin was somewhat misleading considering Bribie led 24-4 at half-time and 30-10 with 10 minutes remaining, before Stanley River launched a late onslaught.

Stanley River may well have snatched victory had the game lasted another five minutes, but there was little point wondering what might have been.

When all was said and done, the Warrigals completed an undefeated year while they were the only team to defeat the Wolves all year; with the teams having gone head-to-head three times.

Stanley River had a dream start last Saturday as Matthew Mladenovic scored the opening try in the first three minutes, but the four-point lead turned into a two-point deficit in the space of five minutes.

Subsequent tries to Trent Rooney, Jack McAlister and Luke Gillett – all converted – stretched the margin to 20 points after just 22 minutes of play.

The Wolves were starved of the ball in this period as they conceded multiple penalties, with some of them obvious while others left the players scratching their heads.

There was also a question mark over one of the tries, as it appeared there was a knock-on in the lead-up.

Lance Ainsworth scored a much-needed converted try for the Wolves in the early stages of the second half, before Bribie’s Anthony Evans hit back with a converted try less than 10 minutes later.

Evans’s try also appeared highly suspect, as the Warrigals were perhaps fortunate not to be penalised for a pass off the ground.

The Warrigals were cruising towards a comfortable victory but then they seemed to run out of gas, while the Wolves lifted a notch or two and produced their scoring spree.

Daemon Cruise scored with about 10 minutes left, and then Jaye Allery scored five minutes later before Daniel Brooks scored in the final two minutes.

Cruise landed his fourth conversion, before play restarted with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Stanley River co-coach Ethan Szendrey said he was happy with the attitude and effort from the Wolves, especially in the second half.

“I thought we regrouped in the sheds at half-time and came out firing in the second half, with a point to prove,” he said.

Szendrey maintained as he had all year that he wouldn’t blame referees, although he said he felt that “not many 50-50 calls went our way”.

Szendrey said the Wolves began well but that the ensuing 15- to 20-minute period probably cost them the game, as they couldn’t receive their share of possession.

“A lack of experience in big games might have made a difference,” he said.

Szendrey said although it hurt and that it wasn’t nice to lose a grand final, he had told the players to hold their heads high considering it was still an achievement in itself to reach the decider.

“They’ll be better for it, and they’ll understand what it takes,” he said.

Although saying that he felt the Wolves “could have and should have won”, Szendrey gave credit to the Warrigals and their playing group.

“They’ve been together for four or five years, and they had an undefeated season,” he said.

Szendrey stressed that having an unbeaten year wasn’t a fluke.

Szendrey said overall he felt it was a very successful year for the Wolves, particularly after many of the players didn’t know each other at the start of the year.

“It takes time to build relationships in football,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the Wolves and Warrigals not fielding A Grade teams this year, it remains to be seen if one or both clubs enter a team in the top grade next year.


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