Past Brothers secured an 18-6 Grand Final victory over West Panthers in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership at Salter Oval on Saturday night.
The win was spearheaded by Matthew Craven who overcame the pain of a hand injury which had seen him miss seven weeks of the season and earning him the Les Somerville Medal for Player of the Grand Final.
The 30-year-old, who is a nephew to their coach Andrew Hamilton, played all his junior football for the club, being mentored throughout by his famous uncle.
He followed him to Gladstone Valleys in 2011 and, after a stint in Brisbane, he returned to Bundaberg in 2018 signing with Isis Devils and playing one season with them before the club folded.
Matthew was then signed by East Magpies, and he took out the BRL A Grade Player of the Year in his first two seasons with them, 2019 and 2021 (with the BRL Premiership not run in 2020 due to the Pandemic).
He also almost pulled off a miraculous grand final victory in 2021, when Brothers held on to beat the red-hot favourites Magpies 26-22 after they had led 24-4 on the hour.
Last year, the gifted all-rounder captained-coached the Magpies, but after again promising much, they were knocked out in the elimination final by the Panthers, while Brothers went on to contest their third straight Grand Final, only to be blown away by Hervey Bay Seagulls 34-14.
This year, Matthew made a welcome home-coming, and two team-mates followed him – classy five-eighth Mitchell Taylor, and tough front rower Hayden Priestley, who also returned to the Brethren to re-unite with his younger brother Tyrell, who took over as captain this year when triple premiership winning skipper Kevin Sherriff was only able to play every fortnight after gaining a new teaching position in Brisbane in 2022.
Matthew Craven started 2023 all guns blazing, racking up a total of 50 points with four tries and 17 conversions in the first two rounds, but they were against the two teams which went on to finish on the bottom of the table, Seagulls and Wallaroos.
With injuries and unavailability all season, Brothers also split the honours with the Panthers and Tigers during the regular season, but they did enough to clinch the Minor Premiership in a three-way battle which went right down to the wire, with a 24-10 last-round win over Wests after having drawn with and lost to the Panthers in their only two previous classes this campaign.
West also ambushed them in the Major Semi-final 22-14, before Brothers got out of jail in the Preliminary Final against Waves, hitting the front for the first time with 16-14 from a Matthew Craven conversion with 2:30 to go in the second five-minute half of extra time.
The Panthers also drew first blood in the decider through high class lock Shaun Ezzy in the seventh minute, with Chris Robinson landing the simple conversion.
Brothers’ only points in the first half were from a try to Preliminary Final late try scorer Centre Quentin Olive on the 20-minuite mark.
Both teams continued their end-to-end battle, each creating many chances, but both sides defended magnificently.
Matthew Craven gave the Brethren the first real chance in the second stanza with a booming 40/20 kick, but despite getting three sets in a row in the Panthers’ red zone, there was no way through, and they ultimately turned the ball over.
West quickly turned defence into attack, and two minutes later, they looked to have extended their lead with Under-18 winger Noah Law crossing in the left corner, only for the final pass to be ruled forward.
With no way through the West defence, Matthew Craven went to the air, launching a towering clearance kick high into the sky, with the Panthers not contesting the ball, and came racing through and grabbed it from a fortuitous bounce and sprinted away to score untouched then convert from a 10-6 lead in the 63rd minute.
From there, Brothers were able to dominate territorially, and they extended their lead to six points with Matthew also kicking the goal with 6:55 left on the clock after the Panthers were penalised in possession as they tried to work the ball out of their own end.
With time running out for Panthers and fatigue setting in, two minutes later, Craven ignited another attacking raid from deep in his own half down the left, and it continued on, before former club junior rock solid second rower Luke Stilinovich, who returned to the Blue and White this year after a stint in Brisbane, put the icing on a superb season individually, with just his fifth try, with Matthew adding the extras.
While Matthew Craven was the clear stand-out, Brothers coach Andrew Hamilton lauded a robust team performance, well led by first-season captain Tyrell Priestley.
The team had a truly magnificent pack, headed by starting forwards, front rowers Tyla Hodge and Hayden Priestley, 18-year-old hooker Eden Hess, who is a younger brother to Cowboys NRL star Coen, second rowers Max Shorter, who took out the Les Somerville Medal for Hervey Bay in their win over Brothers last year, and Stilinovich, and Kevin Sherriff.
For Brothers it was their third A Grade gong in four seasons, and their 25th in their proud history since their formation in 1947, ahead of their 75th Anniversary celebrations on Saturday September 30, extending their lead on the A Grade Honours Board, ahead of Railways/West 21, and Natives/East and Wanderers/Waves with 16 each.
Andrew Hamilton, also a Brothers junior product, who first captained-coached the club to A Grade glory as a teenager in 1995, went on to be a star in the Queensland Cup for Sunshine Coast Falcons, Ipswich Jets and North Devils, and also played for South Queensland Crushers in the NSWRL and London Broncos in the English Superleague in a decorated career, and also represented Queensland Residents, and was later named in the Queensland Cup Team of the Decade 1995-2005.
He has continued his high success rate in a couple of stints at the helm since returning to Australia, and was again in awe of his nephew, but said “an absolutely awesome defensive effort” had kept them in the contest.
“It was a good physical game from both teams, and we played a very disciplined game, although we didn’t play real smart at times, and I’m really proud of all the team,” Andrew said.
Andrew Hamilton said there had been real fire in the bellies of the seven players who were plucked by the Seagulls last year, and Matthew Craven and Hayden Priestley, who had lost the decider 12 months earlier for East.
Matthew said it was sweet to win another premiership with Hamilton after first being part of an A Grade title winning team as a two-year-old mascot in 1995.
“It was good to win premierships for Brothers when I was younger, and while I enjoyed my time at Easts, it is really good to come back to my junior club and get a win – the first half was pretty tough, but we came good in the second half, and the boys just dug deep,” Matthew said.
It was West’s first grand final appearance in nine years since they defeated Isis Devils 42-28 to claim the 2004 title, and the three survivors from that side, brothers Corey, Joshua and Daniel Tanner, were again driving forces behind their superb season, with Corey now as coach, and Joshua and captain Daniel leaders of the pack, and after going so close, they are each now reconsidering retirement and may continue on in a quest for one more premiership.
West however broke an eight-year drought in Reserve Grade with teenager Ryan Bugeja kicking a field goal in extra-time to clinch a 21-20 victory over Waves Tigers.
Brothers also contested the Under-18 finale for the second year in a row as Minor Premiers, but they were again bridesmaids, going down to Hervey Bay 28-8 with winger Elijah Mason starring for the Seagulls with a hat-trick of tries.
Waves Tigers claimed the U16-15 double, defeating Brothers 12-8 in the former with explosive five-eighth Preston Walsh a match winner with one try and two conversions.
The Tigers tamed the Panthers 30-10 in U15 with electrifying five-eighth Parkka Perrotta-Dowling bagging a double and crafty hooker Tahj Coates amassing 14 points with one try and five conversions.
The Seagulls also triumphed in U14, against East Magpies 28-22.
The U13 decider was an all-Brothers affair with Blue defeating White 22-8 with multi-talented captain and five-eighth Lachlan Rae, whose parents Chris and Nikki were both tennis champions, leading from the front with two tries and three conversions.
PAST BROTHERS 18 (Quentin Olive, Matthew Craven, Luke Stilinovich tries; Matthew Craven 3 goals) d WEST PANTHERS 6 (Shaun Ezzy try; Chris Robinson goal).
WEST PANTHERS 21 (Kamini LELENGA 2, Kade FORRESTER, Ryan SHARPE tries; Ryan BUGEJA 2 goals & Field Goal) d WAVES TIGERS 20 (Jake COROS, Zak SMALE, Thomas AKERS, Caleb TAIRAWHITI tries; James TAIRAWHITI, Thomas AKERS goals).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 28 (Elijah MASON 3, Adam KHAN, Boedie DWIGHT tries; Adam KHAN 4 goals) d PAST BROTHERS 8 (Caio KERR try; Mitchell SLY, Ezekiel MONCKTON goals).
WAVES TIGERS 12 (Preston WALSH, Lachlan CAMPBELL tries; Preston WALSH 2 goals) d BUNDABERG BROTHERS 8 (Xavier FREEMAN, Oliver SMITH tries).
WAVES TIGERS 30 (Parkka PERROTTA-DOWLING 2, Joshua RICHARDS, Tahj COATES tries; Tahj COATES 5 goals) d WEST PANTHERS 10 (Levi BROUGH, Lael LAMPTON tries; Levi BROUGH goal).
HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 28 (Billy RODERICK, Thomas MASON, Alexander BERTHELSEN, Kai WARREN, Caelan BARR tries; Kai WARREN 4 goals) d EAST MAGPIES 22 (Xavier BLAIR 2, Jack JOHNSON, Levi HACK tries; Billy FROHLOFF 3 goals).
BROTHERS BLUE 22 (Lachlan RAE 2, Brock WENDT, Thomas DE LACY tries; Lachlan RAE 3 goals) d BROTHERS WHITE 8 (Lachlan LYONS, Cooper VENZ tries).
Zac Nicholas was a match winner with a double as Across The Waves pipped hosts Clinton 3-2 in their away tie of the Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) Champions League on Saturday to win 2-0.
They will now meet Leichardt FC of Cairns in the third round after they defeated Mundingburra Aitkenvale Olympic Football Club, of Townsville, 3-0.
In the McDonald’s FQPL Wide Bay Men’s competition, United Park Eagles (UPE) dropped from second to third with a 5-0 whitewash at the hands of hosts Fraser Flames last Saturday, while Bingera claimed second spot in an 8-0 blitz of SC Corinthians at Martens Oval with Irish ace Gary O’Donnell hammering in six goals to take his season tally to 30, but he fell two short of Waves Young Gun Preston Cox in the Golden Boot.
Meanwhile, Sunbury Blues disposed of KSS Jets 2-1.
Waves will host Bingera in the Qualifying Final at 6 pm tomorrow, when UPE will be striving to bounce back against the Flames in the Elimination Final at the same time at Martens Oval.
In the McDonald’s FQPL Wide Bay Women’s League, Bingera bowed out with a 4-2 loss to all-conquering Fraser Flames at Martens Oval on Friday night, while Waves missed the chance to claim third position when they were beaten 2-1 by Doon Villa, who in the process climbed one spot to fifth.
Tonight at 8.30 pm, the Flames will turn up the heat another notch against KSS Jets in the Qualifying Final at Fraser Coast Sports Precinct, while UPE and Waves will do battle in the Eliminator at Martens Oval.
A Joel Latham goal was enough to clinch Minor Premiers Waves Cities a 1-0 victory over All Blacks in the Bundaberg Hockey Division 1 Men’s Major Semi-final at Hinkler Park on Saturday, while their Division 1 Women also kept their hopes alive, also accounting for All Blacks by the same score-line in their Minor Semi-Final duel.
Division 1 Women’s reigning champions and Minor Premiers Arrows/Athletics are also straight through to their Grand Final after outgunning Premier League winners Raiders/Rovers 4-2, but Raiders/Rovers’ men were knocked out by Arrows 2-1.
Raiders/Rovers’ Women will get another chance in the Preliminary Final at 3.15pm tomorrow against Cities, while All Blacks will be chasing a place in their seventh straight Division 1 Men’s Grand Final when they try to repel Arrows at 5pm.
All Blacks 2 (Brayden Sinnamon 1, Eamon D’Albret 1) defeated Waves Cities 1 (Lillian Pashley 1)
Raiders Rovers 8 (Flynn Bock 1, Will Baldry 3, Levi Kendall 4) defeated Arrows Athletics 0
Waves Cities 6 (Sophie Aitkenhead 2, Ruby Potter 2, Emily Williamson 2) defeated All Blacks 0
Raiders Rovers 3 (Levi Kendall 1, Silvana Powell 1, Ameilia Law 1) defeated Arrows Athletics 1 (Brock Green 1)
Arrows Athletics 5 (Ethan Kenny 1, Bridie Stehbens 1, Ava McCaig 1, Tully Dorgan 2) defeated All Blacks 0
Raiders Rovers 0 drew with Waves Cities 0 – Waves Cities proceed to grand final on points
Division 2 Men
Raiders Rovers 2 (Riley Howard 1, Alastair Mullett 1) drew with All Blacks 2 (Ben Neller 1, Kalen Wilke 1) – Raiders Rovers proceed to grand final on points
Division 2 Women
All Blacks 2 (Niki Richardson 1, Rhiannon Turley 1) defeated Arrows Athletics 1 (Natalie Ferguson 1)
Raiders Rovers 3 (Chantal Baldry 1, Lani Drinnen 1, Kassie Pyke 1) defeated Waves Cities 0
Division 1 Women
Waves Cities 1 (Milee Flanders 1) defeated All Blacks 0
Arrows Athletics 4 (Malanie Stehbens 1, Anna Vicenzotti 1, Bridget Stehbens 1, Ally Dunn 1) defeated Raiders Rovers 2 (Emma Kendall 1, Courtney Kendall 1)
Division 1 Men
Waves Cities 1 (Joel Latham 1) defeated All Blacks 0
Arrows Athletics 2 (Jake McCaig 1, Brendan Cook 1) defeated Raiders Rovers 1 (Ryley Stevens 1)
The unbeaten Waves Gold powered on in their quest for four straight Bundaberg Netball Warren Family Homes Division 1 Premierships with a 57-25 demolition of Brothers Hurricanes in the Major Semi-final at the Superpark on Saturday.
But Hurricanes will get a second chance to clinch a third straight Grand Final berth in the Preliminary Final at 5pm tomorrow against Natives Magpies, who plucked Alloway Blue 42-29 in the Minor Semi-Final.
Other Major Semi-final victors included Natives Eagles (D2), Brothers Tsunami (Masters), Fusion Wessel Petroleum (D3), Brothers Tornadoes (D4), Brothers Wildfires (D5), Waves Sapphires (Ladies), Brothers Typhoons (D6), Alloway Orange (D7), Fusion Firestorm (D8), Waves Fuchsia (D9), and Waves Violet (D10).
Champion Bundaberg trainer Darryl Gardiner could quinella the Ulton Cup Benchmark 60 Handicap at the Ulton Race Day at Thabeban Park tomorrow with the well performed Maverick Henry, which is resuming from a spell, and new acquisition from Victoria, Coyote.
Maverick Henry failed dismally at his only start on the track so far at his debut for Darryl on 28 January, but he has two wins at Gladstone and Thangool, and seconds there and Rockhampton from his past four starts, and while he has not raced since 18 May, he will be aided by a 4 kg allowance for apprentice Rob Thorburn.
Coyote has had 16 starts for two wins, at Gawler and Strathalbyn, and five minor placings, including three from his past seven outings, the last of which was on 25 May, twice at Bendigo and once at Donald on 26 March when ridden by Dean Holland, who was tragically killed in a race fall on the same track four weeks later.
Others to appeal include I am Fearless (Benchmark 55), Tesseleight for another Bundaberg trainer Laura Cronan in the Maiden Plate, Ipswich trained Mare Our Lil Sistar, also to be ridden by Rob Thorburn, which will be chasing a hat-trick of wins in the three-horse Open Handicap, and Take the Lead, which was a big winner at the last Bundaberg meeting before also getting the money at Gladstone, in the Benchmark 50.
Last week's sports talk: Brothers to meet Wests in BRL final