29 August, 2023
Wolves’ premiership surge hits a snag
THE Stanley River Wolves remain one win away from a grand final berth after the Bribie Island Warrigals became the first team to qualify for this year’s Sunshine Coast Gympie Rugby League (SCGRL) reserve grade decider.
Bribie defeated Stanley River 20-12 in last Saturday’s major semi-final at the Bribie Island-based Bernie Foley Oval, after the Beerwah Bulldogs beat the Kawana Dolphins 26-23 in the minor semi-final.
Stanley River and Beerwah will subsequently square off in this Saturday’s preliminary final at Sunshine Coast Stadium, after the teams met only a fortnight earlier in week one of the finals.
Last Saturday was only the second time this year that the Wolves tasted defeat, while the Warrigals continued their unbeaten year.
Wolves co-coach Ethan Szendrey didn’t sound overly concerned about last Saturday’s defeat, as he said it was much different from the 26-10 loss that his team sustained against the Warrigals back on May 27.
Szendrey said “as a team we didn’t perform (well)” in the 26-10 loss, whereas last Saturday “was a high quality game”.
“I wouldn’t really look at it as a setback or anything of the sort,” he said of last Saturday’s defeat.
“At the end of the day it was a really good game of footy.”
Although the winners from last Saturday earned a week’s rest, Szendrey said it wasn’t a bad thing to have to play this Saturday considering the Wolves were short of match practice in the past couple of months due to a few wins on forfeit as well as a general bye.
Stanley River had a setback in the warm-up last Saturday as Casey Gray injured his knee and was forced to withdraw from the match.
After Szendrey predicted last week that the Wolves needed to be ready to be in an arm-wrestle for the whole 70 minutes, the first half was very much an arm-wrestle.
Neither team scored in the first 32 minutes, before a converted try to Paul McKewin took the Warrigals to a 6-0 lead.
The Wolves erred at the start of the second half, and paid dearly as Jack McAlister scored a try soon afterwards to stretch the margin to 10 points.
Stanley River recovered as Tony Ainsworth scored a converted try, and the Wolves gained some momentum before another turning point occurred.
Matthew Mladenovic put in a perfectly placed cross-field kick, only for a certain try to go begging as a simple catch was fumbled.
Instead of leading 12-10 or being level at 10-all, the Wolves trailed 16-6 several minutes later as Bribie’s Anthony Evans scored a converted try.
Szendrey said afterwards that “Bribie executed a couple of chances better than we did” while the Wolves needed to realise how important it was to take such opportunities.
A converted try to Luke Gillett gave the Warrigals a 14-point lead, before Jack Argent scored for Stanley River with about four minutes remaining.
Realistically, Argent’s try came a bit too late for the Wolves to have any real hope of a comeback.
Szendrey said he was fairly happy with his team’s discipline and ball control, while he didn’t think there was too much which required attention.
“We’ll take a huge amount out of that game,” he said.
Szendrey nonetheless said the Wolves needed to “clean up some small areas” such as the bombed try, while another error was being held on the last tackle on their own side of halfway.
Szendrey said the Warrigals were “the team to beat” and that “they proved on the weekend why they are where they are”.
“We knew Bribie had good defence (but) they probably shocked us with how quick their line speed was,” he said.
“We probably moved a bit too laterally.
“Our scrambling defence on our line left a bit to be desired.”
Looking ahead, Szendrey said the Wolves had to focus on beating the Bulldogs and to not think about a rematch with the Warrigals.
Dalton Smith is set to return for Stanley River after missing last Saturday’s match due to work commitments, while Gray is likely to remain sidelined for the remainder of the season.
John Snow is also in doubt after sustaining a suspected broken hand which will require x-rays.
This Saturday will be the fourth time the Wolves and Bulldogs meet this year, after a 30-10 win to Stanley River in April was followed by an 18-all draw in June and a 46-16 victory for Stanley River in the August 19 fixture.
Interestingly, Szendrey coached the Bulldogs last year when they beat the Wolves 24-10 in the preliminary final to end Stanley River’s premiership aspirations, before he returned to his junior club this year after Beerwah lost last year’s decider 24-4 to Coolum.