26 Sep 2016
By Kevin Braysher
The I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears are Intrust Super Cup premiers thanks to a 26-16 win over the Redcliffe Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium.
Burleigh got on the board early and never lost the lead throughout a thrilling 80-minutes.
The Dolphins kept fighting back, but it was Burleigh’s day and every time they got close the Bears would pull away again.
It is the club’s first premiership since they beat the Easts Tigers in extra time of the 2004 grand final and it secures their place in the 2016 Intrust Super State Championship to be played at the NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
It caps off a remarkable journey for the Bears who last year suffered some of the worst defeats in the club’s memory, to now being the toast of rugby league in Queensland.
Jim Lenihan, in his second stint as head coach, has steered the club through good times and hard times and said the turnaround this year has been an amazing ride.
“Last year we got beaten by Townsville by 70, Redcliffe at home by 60 and Tweed at their place by 60, and those are gut-wrenching days,” he said.
“12 months from there to now is a massive change and everyone has got to take massive pride in that.
“We needed a full 1-17 effort today and we did it. Our 1, 6, 7 and 9 were great, our middles were outstanding, Jamie (Dowling) and (Hayden) Schwass defended the edges really well all day and then the outside backs got in and did so much work.
“There are a lot of people that get credit for it, but everyone is just as important as everyone else, so it was a really great effort.”
Bears co-captain Jamie Dowling had to battle injury concerns to even be available to play the grand final, but the Burleigh junior defied the odds, along with fellow late inclusions Oliver Regan and Jeff Lynch, to pull on a jersey and lift the Cup at the end.
“I can’t put into words how good it feels,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m so proud of the boys, all the fans who came up to watch. It’s just a great day.
“When the boys won at Redcliffe (in the qualifying final) I made a decision then to play. I sort of went against the doc to do it but we’ve won the game now and I couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a great culture we have this year and as I said, I can’t put into words how good it feels.”
It was a familiar name who got his name on the scoreboard first, as Kurtis Rowe cut through the Redcliffe defence to run away and score in the 12th minute.
Some quick hands in the 17th minute saw Redcliffe hit back to make it 6-4, but it wasn’t long before Burleigh extended the lead again.
In the 23rd minute Rowe got the ball on the left with nothing on, but found a way past the defence to nab his second of the day.
He also pulled off a fantastic try-saving tackle in cover defence on a runaway Dan Randall in what was a superb first half from the fullback.
Jamal Fogarty’s two sideline conversions and a penalty goal saw the lead extend out to 14-4, but the Dolphins came back with a vengeance late in the first half.
They put the Bears under plenty of pressure and were rewarded with a try to Tyson Cleal five minutes from halftime.
Both sides came out firing in the second half but it was again a raid down the left that provided the Bears with points.
Rowe combined with Sami Sauiluma, who got through a mountain of work running his side out of trouble throughout the game, to score in the 49th minute. A third sideline conversion from Fogarty saw the lead back out to 10.
Dolphins halfback Darren Nichols got Redcliffe back in the hunt when he sliced through to score in the 57th minute, bringing the Dolphins within reach of a comeback win.
However, as he has done on many occasions in 2016, when the moment came for a big play it was Cameron Cullen who stepped up and provided it.
Cullen shrugged off some tired defence in the 71st minute to score what would ultimately prove to be the grand final winning try, as the Bears ended their premiership drought with a 26-16 victory. Cullen was awarded the Duncan Hall Medal for man of the match.
It was a fitting farewell for Cullen, who along with Jamal Fogarty and Paterika Vaivai have signed NRL contracts for 2016.
Lenihan said that while they will be missed dearly by the Bears, their contribution along with the contribution of many of the 2016 recruits has been one of the major players in the club’s turnaround this season.
“Couldn’t be prouder of them and I can’t speak highly enough of them,” he said.
“It’s great that we were able to help put them on their way and if they ever come back we’ll take them, but they might never come back to us and we’ve played a little part in giving them an opportunity to play full-time football.
“When Jamal and Cullo came here, both had never played for Burleigh before and we put a real big focus this year on all the new players taking a real sense of ownership of it. You don’t have to be here ten years to have the right to tell each other what’s good enough and what’s not good enough.
“We’ve probably had a culture of ‘it’s ok’ for too long and we’ve got the right people in now that one player can tell another when they’re not doing it right, and if you are told you’re not doing it right you take it like a man and fix it and there are no hard feelings. That’s been the big change in attitude.”
The Bears will face the Illawarra Cutters in the Intrust Super State Championship next Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium as part of the NRL Grand Final day.
The Cutters defeated the Mounties 21-20 in the Intrust Super Premiership grand final.
BURLEIGH BEARS 26 (Kurtis Rowe 2, Sami Sauiluma, Cam Cullen tries Jamal Fogarty 5 goals) def REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 16 (Jonus Pearson, Tyon Cleal, Darren Nichols tries Darren Nichols 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium
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