Illawarra Coal Rugby League Grand Finals
by Barry Ross
Former Australian Test stars and Grand Final winners, Billy Smith and Rod Reddy, were keen spectators at the Illawarra Coal Rugby League Grand Finals on Sunday 11 September at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
Now 74, Smith played 26 Tests, captaining his country in one Test and was a member of four St. George Grand Final winning teams. Reddy, 62, played 17 Tests and was a member of two Grand Final winning Dragons teams.
Other interested spectators at Wollongong included David Trodden, NSW Rugby League CEO; John Anderson, Chairman of Country Rugby League and Bert Lowrie, Operations Manager for Country Rugby League.
The three grades were played in glorious weather, which was perfect for rugby league.
Dapto took out the First and Second Grade Premierships, while Western Suburbs took home the Under 18 title.
In First Grade, Dapto won the minor premiership, going through the regular season unbeaten. The Canaries, as they are known, suffered a hiccup in the Major Semi Final, when second placed Wests upset them 22-14 at Collegians Sports Complex on 28 August. However, they bounced back with a strong 26-6 victory over Helensburgh in the final on 3 September and took the title on Sunday with an impressive 28-16 win. They led 22-6 at halftime and finished with five tries to Wests’ three.
Although he did play from the bench, Dapto Captain/Coach Michael Henderson, carried a painful torn rib cartilage on to the field. In his absence, lock, Michael Murphy, captained the side. Murphy played as a teenager, the last time Dapto won the Illawarra Premiership back in 2006.
All of the Dapto 17 men’s squad played strongly and deserved their win. The scrum-base duo of half, Beau Henry and five-eighth, Blake Wallace, were impressive, while former South Sydney man, Joel Reddy, son of Rod, scored a smart try from dummy half.
Wests, coached by Brett Kimmorley, made a game of it for the first 20 minutes or so of the second half, when they trailed by 22-16 just eight minutes after the break. But the Dapto defence proved too good in the countdown to the final whistle.
Injuries resulted in Dapto having no available replacements in the second half. Captain/Coach, Michael Henderson, has 116 First Grade NRL games in his CV with St. George Illawarra and the Gold Coast Titans.
Beau Henry has also tasted First Grade NRL football with the Knights and the Titans, while centre, Keith Lulia, has 65 First Grade games with St. George/Illawarra, the Knights and the Wests Tigers. Henry collected 12 points in the Grand Final from a try and four goals. Back in 2009, he won the NYC, Under 20, Player of the Season award while with St. George Illawarra. He played in all of Dapto’s 15 matches this year and finished with 159 points from nine tries, 60 goals and three field goals.
The leading try scorer was powerful winger, Rob Buaserau, who picked up 16 in his 15 games, while Matt Johnstone collected 15 four pointers.
The Dapto squad was Jason Raper, Rob Buaserau, Keith Lulia, Lulia Lulia, Dillon Capaan, Blake Wallace, Beau Henry, Mick Henderson, Jake Hawkins, Matt Handcock, Andrew Madden, Joel Reddy, Michael Murphy, Justin Faughlin, Matt Johnstone, Jamie Dunning and Michael Bullock.
Dapto 28 (Beau Henry, Joel Reddy, Dillon Capaan, Matt Johnstone, Andrew Madden tries; Beau Henry 4 goals) beat Wests 16 (Jye Mullane 2, Daniel Holdsworth tries; Mitch Porter 2 goals).
In Reserve Grade, Dapto 12 (Jesse Morris 2 tries; Jordan Papa 2 goals) beat Thirroul 6 (Jayme Mcelhone try; Jack Croman goal).
In the Under 18 game, a last minute try to Wendell Sailor’s son, Tristan, gave the Wests Red Devils a 28-26 win over Thirroul.