Pirates sail to victory
THE Peak Downs Pirates have spoiled the Dysart Bulls' near-perfect run in the Central Highlands Rugby League competition, with a 31-20 grand final win in Dysart on Saturday night.
The Pirates left their best performance of the season for when it mattered most, dominating the minor premiership-winning Bulls outfit from start to finish.
On Monday, the Pirates celebration party was still in full swing and coach Mitch Wyatte was revelling in it.
He said the final clash between the competition heavyweights was all that could be expected.
"It's what grand finals are all about," Wyatte said.
"The whole game was tough and Dysart fought all the way.
"We trained hard and prepared well right from the start.
"All the boys dug deep and gave it their all."
Having been the Highlands' most consistent performers, Dysart coach Bill Devine said it was "a bit of an anti-climax" to fall at the final hurdle and lose their biggest test yet.
"Obviously we're disappointed but that comes with losing a final," Devine said.
"You get the feeling that our players couldn't have given it any more.
"We defended well but we couldn't do that all night.
"They (Pirates) hung in there and completed their sets… they were just the better side."
Despite Dysart's best efforts, the tries didn't flow like they had for most of the season, with many of the line decisions often not falling in their favour.
This inability to post the points when it mattered most was at the crux of the Bulls' downfall according to Devine.
"If we got one of those tries which were disallowed, it could have propelled us into the game," Devine said.
"When you're playing a side like Tieri (Pirates), you've got to come away from their line with points, or else you're just digging yourself a deeper hole.
"We had a young side and possibly some of our younger players might have taken the wrong option on occasions.
"But that comes with experience and we had plenty of time in that game to make it up."
Scores aside, Devine said this year's grand final was country rugby league at its finest and, given another opportunity, either side was capable of causing an upset on their day.
"They were two very closely matched sides," he said.
"We could play them (Pirates) every weekend and they would win one week, then us the next."
Pirates' Marc Fickling took out the Best on Ground honours, followed in a close second by hooker Barry Berrigan in the eyes of coach Wyatte.
"He was instrumental in our win," Wyatte said.
"He's got big game experience and kept everyone level-headed in those tough moments."
For the Bulls, prop Ben Walsh was unanimously voted as their player of the final.
"He got something like nine or 10 votes, so pretty much half the team thought he was our best," Devine said.
"He was very inspirational... scoring tries out of nothing."
Dysart backrower Logan Sullivan was presented with the Jim Gallagher Medallion as the Central Highlands Player of the Year.
While Wyatte has signalled his intention to stay on next year and defend his title with the Pirates, it's the end of the road for Devine who said at this point "it's a definite no" to coach the Bulls in 2012.
It was also the last roll of the dice for a number of Bulls' players.
"There will be two or three retirees from the side and a couple who may try their hand over in the state league," Devine said.
Reflecting on the season that almost was, Devine said there were still plenty of positives to take away with him.
"To come from sixth position last year, I'm very proud of them," he said.
"You have got to be committed if you want to win the competition out here, which I think we were it just didn't work out for us in the end."
2011 Season Awards
Player of the Year: Logan Sullivan - Dysart
Most Conversions: Phil Derksen - Dysart
Most Tries: Hayden Reid - Dysart
Rookie of the Year: Billy Biggam - Middlemount
Player of the Final: Marc Fickling - Peak Downs
Volunteer Administrator Awards
President: Damon Walsh - Emerald Cowboys
Secretary: Alanna Murchinson - Clermont
Treasurer: Brooke Walker - Emerald Tigers