All roads led to the Michael Cronin Oval at Gerringong on Saturday, 13 July.
Cronin during his days with Parramatta.
The local club were playing arch rivals Kiama in the Group 7 competition and Ray Hadley, along with his 2GB Continuous Call team, was broadcasting the match live. Local hero Michael Cronin OAM (33 Tests) has coached the home team since 2009, winning the Premiership in 2010 and taking them to the Grand Final in 2011 and 2012. Michael's two sons Patrick and Peter are members of the current team, who sit in second place on the 2013 Premiership ladder.
The Gerringong Lions are a proud club with the best record of any side in the 100 -ear history of the Group 7 Rugby League. They have won 16 first grade Premierships, three in reserve grade, one third grade title and five under 18 competitions. For more than 25 years, the Lions have not paid any of their players or their coaches. As well as Cronin, internationals Paul Quinn (seven Tests) and Rod Wishart (17 Tests) came from the Gerringong club, as did Ashton Sims who toured England with the 2002 Australian Schoolboys team.
Group 7 celebrates their 100 years this season and the Gerringong-Kiama clash was the official VB Centenary match. Around 2,000 fans attended the high standard game, which Gerringong won 28-6 after the score was nil-all at halftime.
Ray Hadley was impressed with the quality of the game, saying it was one of the best country games he had ever seen. Among the many former great players at the match were Michael Cronin's former Parramatta teammates Bob O'Reilly (16 Tests), Peter Wynn (three Tests) and Eric Grothe (eight Tests), while Ron Costello (four Tests), Rod Wishart (17 Tests), Tony Branson (eight Tests), Shaun Timmins (nine Tests), David Boyle (four State of Origin games for NSW) and Barry Andrews (141 first grade games with Cronulla and Easts), also enjoyed the game, along with Chris Bowden former NSWRL Board member and Men of League CEO, Chris Bannerman.
Ray, Darryl Brohman (two State of Origin games for Queensland) and Steve Roach (20 Tests), arrived in the town on Friday night and enjoyed a meal, along with some drinks, with club President Daryl Hobbs and other club members at Cronin's Gerringong hotel. Bob Fulton (35 Tests) came down on Saturday to take his place in the broadcasting team.
In reserve grade, Gerringong scored an impressive 50-0 victory with second rower, Chris Mann, picking up three tries. A field goal from Kiama's five eighth, Blake Rickard, gave his team a 21-20 win in the under 18 fixture.
After 13 rounds of the competition, Gerringong fullback Joel Roberts was the leading individual point scorer with 160 (seven tries, 66 goals), while their halfback Rixon Russell was the leading tryscorer with 12. Second rower Michael Brown and centre Peter Cronin both had crossed for 10 tries.
After the match, there was a State of Origin Blue Tie dinner in the Gerringong Town Hall, which was attended by close to 300 people.
Gerringong 28 ( Pat Cronin, Ryan Staples, Peter Cronin, Rixon Russell, Joel Doosey tries; Joel Roberts 4 goals) beat Kiama 6 ( Kieran Poole try; Jack Alexander goal).
By Barry Ross