Gerringong – South Coast Rugby League
Michael Cronin has guided his beloved Gerringong into the 2015 South Coast Rugby League Grand Final. Gerringong will play Shellharbour City at the Collegians Sports Complex at Figtree in Wollongong this Sunday, 20 September. Shellharbour were the minor premiers and the Gerringong Lions had to defeat the Kiama Knights in the Final, last Sunday (13 September) at Kiama Showground to qualify for the Premiership decider.
The game will be Gerringong’s fifth Grand Final in the last six seasons. Last year, the Lions finished the regular season in fourth place but were eliminated in the minor semi-final 22-20 by Nowra/Bomaderry. In 2013 they took the Premiership with an exciting 14-13 extra time win over Shellharbour. This was Gerringong’s 17th first grade Premiership, which is the most by any club in the South Coast competition. The Lions were unbeaten in their 18 regular season games in 2012, but lost a tight Grand Final, 16-14 to the Albion Park Outlaws. After finishing in second place in 2011, they were beaten by Warilla in the Grand Final, while in 2010, they won their 16th Premiership with a tight 21-20 Grand Final win against Warilla/Lake South Gorillas.
This season was Michael’s 10th season as Gerringong’s first grade coach. He does the job without pay, while the players also receive no money for their services. As a young player, Michael was a member of Gerringong’s Grand Final winning teams in 1970 and 1972. In eight seasons with the Lions, Michael scored 1,642 first grade points, which is the club record. Now 64, Michael joined Parramatta in 1977 and in 219 first grade games with the Eels, he totalled 1,971 points and was a member of four Grand Final winning sides. He also played 33 Tests and with 309 points is second on the individual Test point scoring list for Australia, behind only Jonathan Thurston. Michael also played 27 games for NSW, including six State of Origins.
After retiring, he coached Parramatta for four seasons from 1990 and also coached Country Origin to a win over City Origin in 1992. He was awarded an OAM for his services to Rugby League in 1985 and is a member of the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame. In February 2008, he was named as one of Australia’s greatest ever 100 players.
In Sunday’s Final Gerringong 32 (Reuben Garrick 2, Joel Roberts, Alex Brookes, Peter Cronin, Jack Murchie tries; Joel Roberts 4 goals) beat Kiama 14 (Luke Muttdon, Vaughan Thistlewaite tries; Tom AStkins 3 goals).
While all of the Gerringong team played strongly, halfback Rixon Russell was outstanding, setting up three of his side’s six tries. Kiama led 14-0 after 20 minutes and 14-6 at the halftime break. But the Lions powered home in the second half.
Fullback Joel Roberts has scored 282 points this season from 20 tries and 101 goals. He now has 1,604 points for the club and is just 38 points behind his coach’s club record.
The programme for the South Coast Rugby League’s Grand Final Day is 3pm first grade- Shellharbour City vs Gerringong Lions 1.10pm second grade- Shellharbour City vs Kiama Knights 11.30am under 18s- Nowra/Bomaderry vs Kiama Knights 9.50am third grade- Shellharbour City vs Albion Park Outlaws 8.30am, Womens League Tag- Milton/Ulladulla vs Kiama Knights.
Gates open at 7.30am at the Collegians Sports Complex, Figtree at Wollongong.
By Barry Ross.