Sports guru Vince Habermann looks at last week's AFL grand final, cricket, football, league, rugby and greyhounds in this week's wrap of local sport.
After missing the finals for the first time in their proud history last year, Across The Waves Eagles completed a perfect redemption, claiming their 11th senior flag in their 24 year history, coming back from the brink twice and snatching an amazing 10.7 (67) to 10.4 (64) victory over Bay Power in front of a bumper and delirious home crowd at Frank Coulthard Oval on Saturday.
The 2019 champions played their hearts out and they led at every change and were on track for back-to-back titles when they kicked the last three goals of the third term to lead by 18 points heading into the fourth term, then even after Waves got on a roll and took the lead, Power surged again and kicked ahead again late in the match.
But again the Eagles picked themselves up off the canvas and wrestled back the lead before desperately withstanding one last Bay attack with the full time siren a welcome sound with many bodies battered and bruised and running on empty after a high-octane torrid affair.
The Eagles were formed in 1976 by a merger between the Souths and Norths clubs and they were an immediate success, winning it in each of their first three seasons from 1997-99, then again in 2001, 2006, 2008, 2011, and another three-peat from 2014-16.
Their current team includes sons of foundation players and club champions Ron Blair, Paul Welsh, Steve Paterson, Shaun Enever, John Williams and Gary Nelson, who were all integral in the club and team’s establishment as one of the success stories of Bundaberg sport, with Steve and Shaun both going on to serve as club presidents, and all of them going on to coach.
Ron’s son Michael, who has just turned 30, chalked up his 200th senior game in the last round.
Paul has two sons in the side, Codie and Jayden, who both also play just like him, hard and skillful.
Ryan is following in the footsteps of his dad Steve.
Codey and Jayden are continuing the Enever family tradition with Karl following on from his dad John, and Dean upholds the Nelson name.
Damon Wood, who kicked their first goal in the grand final, is a son of the recently retired Nathan, who was an integral part of their three straight premierships midway through the last decade.
Then there was Michael Sommer-Liverton, 32, who has put his body on the line for the past 16 years while working in Victoria.
Michael has now won five seniors premierships (06, 08, 11, 16 and 20), including the 2016 version as a player/coach.
He also won the Stedman Medal for the league’s best and fairest and the leading goal-kicker award in their unbeaten season in 2011, and was described by captain Jason Bethune as “an absolute club legend”.
Jason Bethune, 26, in his first season as the fearless and inspirational leader after six years as vice-captain only joined the club after moving to Bundaberg from Victoria in 2014 after also playing in Western Australia and South Australia, and he is already a legend in the club.
He rated this one as the best of his four premierships so far in the blue and gold.
“To be down by three goals at three-quarter time, I looked at the boys and said how good will just be if we come home and win for the crowd – it was going to be hard but it was the most amazing game of AFL I have ever played in – it was special and it was a game we will always remember,” Jason said.
“This team has got something special and we are all life-time mates now – it could have gone either way and I don’t reckon we could have done it without the mateship and sacrifice in the team.”
A school teacher at Branyan Road State School, Jason said he won his first seniors flag at the age of 15 in Western Australia.
He also won a flag with Templestowe Dockers in his one year in Victoria, and while they are all cherished, nothing is likely to ever beat this one.
Jason was also delighted for team-mate Damian McRae to receive both the Staunton-Taylor Medal for best on ground in the grand final and the Marquis Macadamias Medal for the league’s best and fairest for 2020 in his first season in Bundaberg.
“The reason Damian is at our footy club is me – I first met him when he was 10 when we went to school together in Western Australia – we were neighbours and we hated each other but on our year seven camp, the teacher put us together and we became best mates and have been ever since,” Jason said.
“Late last year, I called him and he was going through a bit of a hard time and he only had casual work but I told him I loved it here and I was able to help get him a job as a teacher at Bundaberg High, so he came and he coached the women’s team with me as well.
“I’m loving it – we are house mates and living the dream – we go back 15 years playing footy although we played for different teams then – I asked my parents if I could swap teams but it never worked out, but to be playing together now is the most surreal feeling – I knew how good he was from the it day we first played school footy together.”
Jason also reunited this year with another of their galaxy of stars, Nathan Van Eekeren, in his first AFL season in Bundaberg after moving here last year and establishing himself as one of the region’s best cricketers.
“When Nathan first came to the club and I asked where he was from, we worked out that that we played together in under-10 in South Australia for the Flagstaff Hills Falcons, and he has also fitted in perfectly and is another of my best mates now,” he said.
There will be no rest for Nathan as he will hit the cricket bowling crease when he pulls on the colours for Wide Bay in Bulls Master Country Challenge this weekend.
Another remarkable story out of the final was the Wright brothers Ben, Max and Mitchell playing together.
Each flying high just like the famed Aviation Pioneers of the same surname, with Ben and Mitchell each playing their first seasons for the Eagles.
“Ben and I played basketball together for the Bundaberg Bulls, and that was the connection, Mitch is also a gun basketballer and is just an athlete and his four goals (in the final) were something to behold,” Jason said.
Jason said Mitchell played the first three games of the season but stopped because he “thought he was going to the army” and only returned in the last round after being devastated by missing the in-take.
“But Mitch stuck by the team as our water runner for the six games that he missed – his commitment to the team was unbelievable and while it was sad for him to miss out on the Army, we loved having him back and he is a brother for life now,” he said.
Player/coach Klint Wagstaff missed the grand final after having to return to Victoria following a “family tragedy” 10 days before the big game, and still being in isolation before being able to return to Bundaberg.
Jason said assistant coach Jimmy Power “stepped up for the grand final and was nothing but sensational”.
“But we played with Klint’s spirit and I facetimed him about hour after the game, and one thing he said to me was “you boys made me so proud” – Wags, he’s like my big brother and for him to tell me that he’s so proud of us meant the world to me,” he said.
Despite being beaten by Hervey Bay Bombers in the AFL Reserves grand final, Saturday was a golden day for the Eagles with their Colts also claiming a flag, leading throughout to shoot down the Bombers 8.11 (59) to 7.5 (47) in an upset.
Their first-year coach Scott Anderson praised a magnificent team performance.
“When they made it Colts after it was going to be under-16 at the start, with three extra older players back, we were able to play hard senior football, and it gave kids more of a chance to develop before coming into seniors,” Scott said.
“Every clash with them had been a close tight contest, and we came to play and won the day and I’m very proud of the boys.
“Trent Burchard always plays so well in the ruck – he dominated all year in – centreman Nick Creighton, who was one who was able to come back, was also always strong.
“Also Jak Quinn just led on and off the field, and of the younger brigade, Cody Davis kicked a couple of goals and was always strong, along with captain Max Jonsson-Harlacz all year, and Harry Schneider was a young bloke who was always very committed.”
Club fixtures go on hold this weekend due to the Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge, but they will resume next Saturday, when the junior season also get under way.
It is not too late for juniors to sign on with a lot of teams still having vacancies. Contact one of the clubs: Brothers, East Bundy Magpies, Norths, Waves or YMCA, with their details all on mycricket.com.au.
Last weekend was a special one for seven times Tallon Medal winner David Boge, who retired from playing at the end of the 2016 season but has played the past two seasons in the Bundy Big Bash and plays occasionally in the lower grades.
He played together with his 14 year old son Oliver, who made his senior debut.
They opened the batting against YMCA in division three, combining in a partnership of 70 before Oliver was run out with David going on to score 56.
Oliver then opened the bowling and took three wickets, while David chipped in with one in a 13-run victory.
Another 14 year old Angus Rehbein also played in the game together with his club president father Anthony after making his senior debut a week earlier.
The Rugby Bundaberg (RB) Elders Insurance Spring Cup has unfortunately been reduced to a three-team competition following the late withdrawal of Waves Falcons.
There will only been one first-round match with Wests Barbarians to meet Turtles Brothers at 5pm tomorrow at Waves Sports Complex.
RB president Luke McCloskey is hopeful an out-of-two may nominate to fill the void before next week and he expects a battle royale tomorrow to start the shortened 10-round season which will culminate in the grand final on Saturday 19 December.
Fraser Coast Mariners swept all before them last season and Luke expects them to be the bench-mark again but he said both Barbarians and Turtles had recruited “very well” under their new coaches Ryan Hood and Brendon McKeown respectively, auguring well for a great competition.
“Mariners were a fantastic unit last year side – they set the example of the way to play the game and every side in the competition has to catch up, but Barbars and Turtles are both going to be very, very competitive with them from what I have heard and seen” Luke said.
Bundaberg junior semi-finals will be played this weekend. Tomorrow in Hervey Bay, the Seagulls will meet Waves Tigers in under-13, before the Seagulls and Wallaroos do battle in both under-16 and under-18.
On Sunday at the Waves Sports Complex, there will be two local derbies with Waves taking on Wests Panthers in under-14 at 11.50am and the Panthers and Brothers to lock horns with Brothers in under-15 at 1pm.
Bundaberg fixtures resume after a one week’s break at Martens Oval tonight, with in the Ladies League at 6pm.
It will be ATW United v United Park Eagles (UPE), ATW Saints v SC Corinthians Lionesses and Bingera Cutters v Bargara, then at 7.45pm, ATW will take on Bingera.
In the Wide Bay Premier League tomorrow at Martens Oval, Diggers suit up against Sunbury at 4pm, before Bargara clash with Brothers-Aston Villa at 6pm.
Bingera will travel to duel with KSS Jets in Hervey Bay, and Granville hosts UPE in Maryborough next Wednesday to complete the round.
Trainers Gary Cluse (New Moonta) and Brett Hazelgrove (Buccan) each claimed doubles at this week’s Bundaberg eight-race program
Gary took the first two events on the program, a Maiden with Slick Mac and Novice with Houdini Who, while Brett got the money with Winsome Fever (5th Grade) and Cool Change (Mixed 3rd/4th Grade).
The Bundaberg Cup heats were won by It’s a Rush which made it three in a row for Clifton’s Gerard Bowe, and Flying Jet for Peter O’Reilly from Yamanto.
Two local trainers were also among the winners, Paul Burgess, with Velocity Tonelli in the 5th Grade, and Philip Carter whose Savoir beat Paul’s Velocity Jacinta in the Mixed 4th/5th Grade.
In Horse Racing, a number of local trainers will head to the North Burnett for the bumper Eidsvold Cup meeting tomorrow.
- Last week's sports report: Across the Waves Eagles chase 11th premiership