The Shellharbour Sharks came, saw and conquered in their first appearance at the West Wyalong Knockout, on a weekend when Group Nine clubs faltered before the final.
The Group Seven side, including former NRL footballer Bronx Goodwin, ensured their journey was well worthwhile, taking home the $10,000 winners cheque following a 10-6 win over Oberon.
That equated to around $1000 per hour travelled to and from the NSW south coast. In between they bowled over two Group Nine teams, a Group 20 side and the Group 10 Tigers in the decider, when they made a flying start and didn’t look back against Oberon, who were led by former Young coach Luke Branighan.
The Sharks opened up a tournament-winning 10-0 lead with two early tries, including one controversial decision from a kick, amid claims of a knock-on.
“That put us on the back foot but we just dropped too much ball and in the second half,” Branighan said. “We had enough chances to possibly snatch the game but maybe due to having a lot of new players, we just lacked a bit of cohesion.
“But congratulations to Shellharbour, they were a pretty well-drilled outfit. They started well against Southcity (in the semi-finals) and against us, so they’ve knocked off two very good football sides to win it.”
Southcity coach Kyle McCarthy had a similar assessment, declaring the winners a quality side. But the Group Nine premiers were cursing a lapse in the semi-final, which cost them any chance of a breakthrough victory at West Wyalong.
“They took a 12-nil half-time lead. We started slow and were a bit lethargic. I think (the Knockout) wore on us over the day,” McCarthy said.
“They were really good. I think they brought on our lapse with their physicality – they bashed us for about five minutes and that sort of forced our hand.
“Our second half was really good, we got back into the contest, got a try on the board (through Mick Glanville) and dominated tackles and I thought we started to wear them out. I thought we were fitter than them but a slow start just hampered us.
“It’s disappointing. The last four years we’ve been in the semis or the final and haven’t come home with the choccies but it’s alright. We’ve gone on to other success.”
Southcity’s weekend had started superbly, scoring almost a point a minute against Bathurst Panthers on Friday night,. They backed it up with a 12-0 win against quality Canberra side Woden Valley (including former Bulls junior Tyson Hodge) in their quarter final on Saturday.
“I was really happy with the Bathurst game – everything went to plan,” McCarthy said. “We played up tempo and blew them off the park after doing the hard work early.
“We did a similar thing to Woden, did the hard work early and then scored two second half-tries.”
A runaway intercept to Nathan Rose and a try to Pani Manawatu down the short side did the trick but the Bulls lost half Thomas Besgrove to concussion, ruling him out of the semi-final.
McCarthy said props Nick Skinner and Hayden Jeans led from the front for Southcity, while hooker Luke McBeath at hooker and lock Jordan Shepherd also had good weekends. Apart from the disappointment of missing the final, the new coach was happy with the pre-season hit-out.
“Definitely. It was only a five-minute lapse that cost us. We’re in good shape and heading in the right direction.”
Shellharbour’s route to the final included a 16-0 win against Wagga Brothers late on Friday night, followed by a 12-6 quarter-final win against Tullibigeal Lakes United before outlasting the Bulls and Tigers.
Oberon made the final after ending the Knockout hopes of Wagga Kangaroos on Friday, hosts West Wyalong in the quarters, and then the Cherrypickers in the semi-final when they took control early and didn’t relinquish it.
“They’re a quality side across the park, and a big side,” Young coach James Woolford said.
“We had a couple of chances that we didn’t capitalise on. It was 10-0 at half-time so for us to keep them scoreless in the second half was pleasing.”
The Cherrypickers had overcome early deficits in their wins against Moore Park and Yenda which had Woolford looking at the positives out of the weekend.
“I thought over the two days we showed some really positive signs. We’ve got a lot to work on but I was really happy with our efforts. In our first two games, the other team scored first, but we hit back and could then hold them out with our defence,” he said.
New halfback Bobby Roberts made a strong impression, alongside five-eighth Jesse Corcoran.
“I was really happy with our halves, they controlled the game well for us,” Woolford said. “I was really happy with the way (Bobby) took control especially in his first run around with the boys.
“And the toughness of our pack. There was a couple of physical games so the way we stood up as a pack was good.”
Young and Southcity were the only Group Nine sides to win through to Saturday, after Temora and Junee went the way of Brothers and Kangaroos on Friday night.
West Wyalong Knockout Results
Shellharbour 10 d Oberon 6
Shellharbour 14 d Southcity 4
Oberon 10 d Young 0
Southcity 12 d Woden Valley 0
Shellharbour 12 d TLU 6
Oberon 12 d West Wyalong 6
Young 14 d Yenda 6
TLU 4 d Temora 0
Young 12 d Moore Park 4
Oberon Tigers 18 d Kangaroos 6
Woden Valley 4 d Junee 0
West Wyalong 28 d Cobar 0
Southcity 28 d Bathurst Panthers 0
Shellharbour 16 d Brothers 0
Yenda 11 d Nowra-Bomaderry 4