2015 South Coast Rugby League Grand Final

Michael Cronin has coached the Gerringong Lions all the way to the 2015 Group 7 first grade Premiership. Yesterday on Sunday 20 September at the Collegians Sports Complex at Figtree in Wollongong, Gerringong defeated minor premiers, Shellharbour City Sharks, 28-24 in the Grand Final. It was a high standard and exciting match with the lead fluctuating in the second half. Gerringong raced to a 14-0 lead after 25 minutes, but Shellharbour came back strongly to snatch a 16-14 halftime lead. Gerringong were back in front 20-16 in the 52nd minute but a few minutes later it was 20-all.

Shellharbour put their nose in front at 24-20 in the 67th minute, but with just three minutes remaining Peter Cronin put 18 year old interchange winger, Reuben Garrick, over out wide to make the score 24-all. Then Lions fullback, Joel Roberts calmly slotted the difficult conversion, putting his side ahead 26-24. Roberts added a penalty goal seconds before the final whistle and Gerringong had won their 18th Group 7 first grade Premiership. In 1925, while playing in the Illawarra competition, they won the Premiership giving them a total of 19 first grade titles in their 102 years of Rugby League. The Lions have won more South Coast first grade Premierships than any other club.
Every Gerringong player played well especially front rowers, Tim Moore and Chris Mann. Halfback Rixon Russell was always dangerous, while on the right side of the field, teenagers Jack Murchie (centre) and Alec Brookes (winger) were outstanding in both attack and defence. Joel Roberts landed all six of his attempts at a goal and finished the leading Group 7 point scorer for the season with 292. Joel has now totalled 1,612 points for the Lions in first grade Premiership matches from 98 tries and 610 goals. This puts him just 30 points behind his coach, Michael Cronin, who is the club record holder with 1,642 points from 148 tries, 585 goals and 16 field goals. Michael’s 33 Test match career began while he was still playing with Gerringong in 1973.
The Lions had some injury problems during the year and finished second on the table behind the Sharks. They lost the qualifying Final 8-6 to Kiama on 29 August, but bounced back to defeat Nowra/Bomaderry 16-14 in the Minor Semi Final, then the Kiama Knights 32-14 in the Final.
The Premiership was a just reward for all the Gerringong players, officials and supporters hard work during the year. Club President, Daryl Hobbs, was ecstatic with the Grand Final win, saying, “They are a great bunch of guys, who are all above average footballers, guided by a first class coach.” None of the Gerringong players and their coach are paid for their services while the Shellharbour team members are well rewarded for their efforts.
This year was Michael Cronin’s 10th season as the Lions first grade coach. After his great playing career with Parramatta in which he scored 1,971 points and won four Premierships, Michael coached Gerringong in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He then moved back to Parramatta as first grade coach for four seasons in 1990. In 2009, he began seven successive seasons as the coach of the Lions first grade team. Gerringong have played in five of the past Group 7 first grade Grand Finals under Michael’s coaching, winning the Premiership in 2010, 2013 and now 2015.
These three Premiership wins have been especially sweet for the 64 year old coach and father, as his two sons Pat (five eighth) and Peter (centre) have been important members of all three winning teams.
Gerringong Lions 28 (Alec Brookes, Rixon Russell, Michael Brown, Reuben Garrick tries; Joel Roberts 6 goals) beat Shellharbour City Sharks 24 (Kurt Field 2, Jai Field, Matt Carroll, Ryan McCracken tries; Matt Carroll 2 goals) at Collegians Sports Complex, Wollongong. Crowd: about 5,000. Referee: Bill Drury.
The Premiership winning Gerringong team from fullback was Joel Roberts, Joel Doosey, Peter Cronin, Jack Murchie, Alec Brookes, Pat Cronin, Rixon Russell, Tim Moore, Nathan Ford, Chris Mann, Lloyd Bowen, Michael Brown, Brad Davidson, Isaac Russell, Rueben Garrick, Steve Evans, PJ Ford.
By Barry Ross.

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