Goolgowi Rabbitohs maintained their undefeated season record with a comfortable premiership 22-6 win over a courageous Narrandera Lizards on Saturday.
The Proten Community Cup grand final was played at Ivanhoe’s Sahara Oval, which had been resurfaced by the community and Central Darling Shire Council for the occasion.
Goolgowi jumped to an early lead and were never headed, with the score at 12-6 at half-time and adding two more tries in the second half to claim the title.
The Lizards went into the match eager to repeat their pre-season knockout win and end the 20 year drought of having a seniors side play in a grand final.
Goolgowi scored first with Billy Hale over for a converted try to give the Rabbitohs a 6-0 lead followed by another try to Nick Johnson to put a 12-point gap between the two sides going into half time.
Right on half-time, Narrandera’s Jamaine Morgan – the competition’s leading try scorer – added to his tally by crossing for his team’s first try, and the conversion by Gary Ingram gave his side a chance trailing 12-6.
The Lizards came out in the second half fired up and keen to get back into the contest. But, Alex Brown crossed again for Goolgowi, his first try of the season, and it was followed by another to Laurie Sanford to give Goolgowi a comfortable victory.
Goolgowi prop Nick Johnson was named Man of the Match for his strong performance up front.
Narrandera co-coach Troy Prior thanked locals for their strong show of support for the team.
Prior said the players were pleased with the condition of Sahara Oval.
“We went into the game with 20 fit players but it just wasn’t our day,” he said. “Goolgowi rightly so went in as favourites and showed why – they stayed composed under pressure and there was plenty of experience in their side.
“We were right in the game up until 10 minutes to go – it was a good effort. We defended our line in the first half and just tackled and tackled – they finally broke us and scored.”
Prior said the Lizards came out strongly in the second half but lost momentum.
He named D’Andre Williams, Jamaine Morgan, Bryce Sanders and John Ingram as the best players, with John Ingram named the Player’s Player.
“D’Andre was unlucky not to be named best on ground as he played really well,” Prior said.
He hoped the strong support and momentum of the Narrandera club would continue.
“This is our second year back in the competition so to go as far as we did was a big achievement.
“Winning the pre-season knockout was another huge highlight of the season, we won our last four games, won the preliminary final and lost the grand final. We have played some really good football in the last month – hopefully some Narrandera players are picked for the rep side as they deserve to be.”
ProTen Community Cup spokesperson Geoff Hale paid tribute to the major sponsor, ProTen.
“Because of ProTen and the determination of the clubs involved in the competition and their communities, we have been able to grow in stature and bring life and activities back into the towns,” Hale said. “Not only has the rugby league been competitive and played in the right spirit, the game days are terrific social occasions and the opportunity for people to forget the day to day problems.”
He paid tribute to all volunteers to the competition and for the support it had received from the general public.
Another representative match will be played at Narrandera Sportsground on Saturday August 24 when the ProTen Roosters take on the Murray Cup Cods, followed by the Community Cup presentation evening.
In the women’s nines curtain raiser Goolgowi defeated Ivanhoe 32-10 and Ivanhoe went on to defeat Narrandera 14-4. In the men’s nines, Rankins Springs defeated Ivanhoe 28-16.