It will be country football at its best when the unbeaten South Kolan Sharks host Gin Gin Hawks in the Northern Districts Rugby League Grand Final at Shark Park at 2.45pm this Sunday.
It is 30 years since the Sharks broke a long drought with an upset grand final victory over Tannum Sands Seagulls, but premierships continued to be sparse until they reigned supreme three times in four seasons, raising the trophy in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
They have lost the past two grand finals, to Miriam Vale Magpies 18-12 in 2018 and Avondale Tigers 56-16 in 2019, but they have swept all before them in 2021, winning all their 13 matches, including beating Gin Gin 32-16 on April 25, 44-12 on May 15, 28-16 on June 6, 52-12 on June 27, and 40-20 in the major semi-final two weeks ago.
Gin Gin last got their name on the trophy in 2009, but the Hawks are worthy challengers as they have lost only one other game, apart from to South Kolan, and have got better and better each week, despite only scraping home against Miriam Vale 20-16 in the Preliminary Final last Sunday.
They will be the underdogs, but anything can happen in a grand final.
The program will kick off with what is expected to be also an epic duel between Miriam Vale and Avondale for the Slean Cup at 11.30am.
Gin Gin will also contest the Women’s League Tag decider at 1pm against two-times defending champions Avondale Tigerettes, with the high flying Hawkettes, who have won their past eight games after starting their campaign with their only loss being to the Tigerettes 18-10 in the season opener, the hot favourites.
In the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership, Wests Panthers have beaten Past Brothers in their three rounds clashes this season, but those results will count for nothing when the arch-rivals square off again in the Qualifying Final at Salter Oval at 5pm tomorrow.
That game follows the Elimination Final at 3pm, where Hervey Bay Seagulls will battle it out with Waves Tigers, who have had the edge on them over the course of the year, but another epic duel is expected.
The Panthers kicked off the season in the best possible way by derailing Brothers’ title defence with a 46-22 first-round demolition of them back on March 27, and they also prevailed 26-18 on May 16, and 20-12 on June 26.
However, after a blazing start, Wests went through a lean patch, but they wound up second on the ladder, just one point behind minor premiers Easts Magpies, whom they edged out 22-20 in the last round a fortnight ago.
But they are without a few of their big guns in halfback and BRL Rookie of the Year Marcus Tanner and barnstorming second rower Lachlan Patterson, who are both in lockdown until Sunday due to Covid-19 restrictions after both travelling to Brisbane last weekend, powerhouse forward Dan Tanner, who has work commitments, and star centre Sam Robinson, who is still not yet cleared to return from injury.
Vintage veteran Josh Tanner will fill his nephew Marcus’ big shoes, and while team coach and Marcus’ father Corey admits they will miss his son’s electrifying speed, he said Josh’s smarts in tandem with explosive five-eighth Caleb Tull would hold them in good stead.
Brothers finished third on the table, but they have won just seven of their 14 matches, and while they put it all together for the first time by ending the Magpies’ eight-match winning streak with a 38-22 ambush in the penultimate round, they limped into the play-offs with a last-start 26-8 defeat at the hands of the Tigers.
Hervey Bay also go into their sudden-death shoot-out in winning form after signing off with a 22-10 triumph over Wallaroos.
Ironically the Bay and Waves also crossed swords in the season in the season opener, with the Seagulls plucking a 23-22 victory, but the Tigers roared 36-8 on May 16, with fullback Layton Chambers, who has had an outstanding season, amassing 20 points with two tries and six goals, and toughed out a 22-12 triumph on June 26 with Layton again featuring with 10 points with a try and three conversions.
The Reserve Grade Elimination and Qualifying Finals will be contested earlier in the day.
Nykodah Smith hammered in another four goals to increase his lead in the Golden Boot standings as Across The Waves white-washed SC Corinthians in their Wide Bay Premier League Men’s split-Round 22 clash on Wednesday night.
But Waves will find it tougher when they host fierce arch-rivals Bingera at 6pm tomorrow.
At Martens Oval at the same time, the hot and cold Brothers-Aston Villa will attempt to bounce back against Granville, while competition will also be fierce in the bottom of the table combat between Corinthians and Diggers.
United Park Eagles (UPE) travel to Maryborough to take on Sunbury Blues.
No Bundaberg teams will be in action this weekend in the Women’s Premier League, with UPE having the bye, and the Waves-Bingera game scheduled for next Wednesday night.
Win-less for a second season in a row, Brothers Bulldogs will be playing for pride when they host bitter cross-town rivals Across The Waves Eagles in their last meeting of 2021 in the Wide Bay Marquis Macadamias Seniors Premiership at 2.30pm tomorrow.
The Bulldogs can draw heart from narrow losses to the Eagles at their past two meetings, but the reigning champions need to build momentum leading into the finals after a disappointing season so far by their own high standards.
There will also be a local Derby in Hervey Bay between the Power and all conquering Bombers.
It should be business as usual for title holders and unbeaten leaders Waves Gold when they bib up against Fusion Solomon in the Bundaberg Warren Family Homes Division 1 Premiership at the Superpark tomorrow at 6.30pm.
At the same time, the theme will be Blue in the clash between Waves and Alloway’s teams of that colour.
Earlier, second placed Brothers Hurricanes will unleash their fury against Natives Magpies at 5pm.
After seeking advice regarding the current Covid situation and the regulations that are currently in place by the Queensland government, Bundaberg Hockey Association has unfortunately cancelled this weekend’s fixtures.
“Due to several breaches at the grounds last weekend under the lock down orders that are in place, we are doing this as a precautionary measure,” they said in a Facebook post.
Belli Park owner/trainer Eric Conroy claimed a double at this week’s Bundaberg meeting at Thabeban Park, getting the money with Rebel Return, which had been placed at just one of her first 7 starts in the Rum City, taking out the Novice Non-Penalty, and veteran Johnny Dark, which notched his 13th win from 92 starts, in a 5th Grade Heat.
Fogelberg posted his fifth straight victory on the track for Takura trainer David Plummer in the Best 8.
Bundaberg Greyhound Racing Club President Ricky Hassall claimed the quinella in the 4th Grade with Be So Good and Go Emmy Go, while just two other District trainers were also among the winners on the program, Louise Cameron, who saluted the judge with Midnight Cambla in the Restricted Win event, and John White with Bro’s Girl in the Free For All.