The Goulburn Dirty Reds finished up the home portion of their home and away season with dominant wins against the Hall Bushrangers, at Poidevin Oval on Saturday.
Keeping their finals aspirations alive, Goulburn’s reserve grade side notched up a 29-17 win over Hall while in first grade, with a number of players backing up, Goulburn won by 24-7.
Not only the final home game for the season, Saturday also marked the club’s 100th match against Hall as well as the club’s annual Mates Rate day in honour of Hugo Cunningham who died in 2012. Add to that the fact the opposition was Hall, a long-time club rival, and the Reds were pumped for strong performances.
Coming towards the end of a tough and bruising season where player injuries and unavailabilities have regularly required many players to back up, sixth-placed Hall entered the first-grade match as clear favourites with almost double the competition points of Goulburn and still a viable chance of making the semi-finals.
But Goulburn’s recent form has been strong, with coach Ben Pearson describing last week’s match against Tuggeranong as the best and most positive they’ve played all year.
At half-time against Hall, the first-grade match was still very much up for grabs. Goulburn held a three-point lead after scoring first with a converted try in the 17th minute. Hall equalised with their own converted try before a Goulburn penalty goal provided the buffer at the break.
But that was the last impact Hall would make on the scoreboard.
Goulburn added two more converted tries in the second half in rapid succession in the 53rd and 57th minutes, and while the Bushrangers remained a threat until the end, they were unable to breach Goulburn’s dogged defence.
Pearson was particularly pleased with the effort shown by the players towards the close of the season and reflective on the year that could have been without the recurring problem of finding fill-in players.
“It’s a great effort to get two wins, particularly against Hall,” he said.
“Last week’s effort against Tuggeranong, despite losing, and then the wins against Hall show the standard of footy we can play. It shows the high standard of our core group.
“It's frustrating knowing what could have been achieved with commitment from the wider group. I really hope we can finish on a high note.”
Goulburn still has two more competition rounds, both away games, before season’s end. An injury to Abram Kara who has been in outstanding form will put further pressure on Goulburn’s ability to field numbers on the road.
Best and fairest players for Goulburn were Jackson Reardon (3 points), Mik Webber (2 points), Boyd Newby (1 point) and Aidan Greaves (1 point), with Reardon also picking up players’ player.
Goulburn Dirty Reds 24 (Aidan Greaves, Tangi Tangitamaiti, Brandon Courts tries, Mik Webber 3 conversions and one penalty goal) defeated the Hall Bushrangers 7.
The Reserve grade game was the 100th encounter between the sides and while Goulburn has had a dominant record in first grade, the record in reserve grade has been pretty close (27 wins and 21 losses).
Coach Ben Pearson was one of the semi-retirees to strap on bots to help the side out on the day and he was rewarded with a try that brought up his 200 club points for Goulburn.
As with the first-grade match, the score was close at the half time break – Goulburn ahead 14-10, but the Reds owned the second half scoring three more tries while Hall could only add one.
Of Goulburn’s five tries, purists would have loved that three were scored by props – two by Stan Williams who was in smashing form in both grades.
The five try win also presented Goulburn with a bonus point taking the Dirty Twos to just one competition point behind fourth placed ADFA. At that point, however, the maths gets messy.
ADFA, who didn’t play yesterday, now has two games in hand and RMC, who are two points behind Goulburn, has three games in hand. Since the military teams are also playing some games for double points and triple points, Pythagoras himself couldn’t figure out where things stand but as of just now, on paper, Goulburn’s reserve grade side are still well and truly in the hunt for a finals berth.
Best and fairest players were Nick Tabner (3 points), Shaune Martin (2 points) and Michael Cudaj (1 point) with Tabner also earning players’ player.
Goulburn Dirty Twos 25 (Stan Williams 2, Ben Pearson, Jordan Davies, Abram Kara tries, Brandon Courts 2 conversions) defeated Hall Bushrangers 17.
The Club’s Mates Rate day was once again a reminder to players, supporters and the general community to reach out to anyone who might be doing it tough and could do with someone to talk to. As always, it was a poignant occasion where we not only remember the terrific bloke that Hugo was, but remember the value mateship can have in someone’s life at their darkest moments.
Jo and Jack Cunningham, parents of Hugo, organised for Headspace, One Door Mental Health and the Suicide Prevention team to be on hand to have a chat with anyone who wanted, either about how they are going or the services they provide, and they distributed brochures and kits for people to take away if they wanted to have a chat at a later time.
The first-grade players wore a special jumper designed for the occasion which will be auctioned at a representative match to be played at Poidevin Oval in October. The money raised from that, along with gate donations and the sale of cupcakes from Saturday’s game, will go to local suicide prevention and depression initiatives.