The Belconnen United Scholars have ended two years of pain with a hard fought 38-26 win over the reigning premiers of the last two years, the Queanbeyan Kangaroos in yesterday’s Canberra Raiders Cup grand final.
Along with being minor premiers this year, the Scholars also finished on top in the past two seasons but have had to endure two years of pain after a series of heartbreaking finals campaigns which denied them of the silverware that matters most.
In 2010 the Scholars were beaten by the Kangaroos in the decider and failed to qualify for last year’s decider after they were eliminated after consecutive semi final losses.
The club’s past heartbreak wasn’t on anyone’s mind though when the full-time siren sounded and Seiffert Oval was transformed into a sea of blue and white after Belconnen’s fans ran onto the ground to surround their heroic team.
Belconnen Coach John Hawke said those missed opportunities made yesterday’s victory all the sweeter and was thrilled that the player’s hard work and loyalty was finally rewarded.
“Three years ago we came last in all three grades so to win this is huge,” said Hawke. “We got behind in the second half and I thought ‘this can’t happen again’ but we dug deep and I couldn’t be happier.”
“As much as you say it’s not a factor, the last two years have hurt hard and we’ve done it hard. But I still had 17 blokes who still had the desire not to give up, or go to another club. Everyone wanted to poach our players but these blokes stayed loyal to myself and the club and this is their reward.”
The Scholars didn’t get the premiership handed to them on a platter though, with the Kangaroos proving worthy adversaries. Queanbeyan opened the scoring through after Glenn Baker pounced on a Jordan Macey grubber kick and went onto lead 18-14 at halftime and looking set to win their third straight premiership.
Belconnen dug deep to prevail in the second half though with Captain Channon McAskill and Les McIntyre Medal winner Brent Crisp highly instrumental in the victory.
McAskill scored himself before busting through to set Matt Gafa up for the match-winning try while Crisp was simply outstanding.
The 26-year-old deservedly won the man of the match award after scoring a brilliant solo try, kicking a 40/20 and playing a leading hand in the majority of his sides tries.
Strangely enough, Crisp may not have been a part of yesterday’s grand final had it not been for the interference of Hawke. The former Canterbury Bulldogs player revealed that he was set to retire at the end of last year due to a loss of love for the game he grew up cherishing.
“I was on the borderline of retirement after two disappointing years at Young Cherrypickers,” said Crisp. “I’ll be forever grateful to Hawkey because he gave me back the love of the game again.”
“I’d gone from playing in Sydney to not winning many games. It was a snowball of things, a couple of off-field things and I just wasn’t liking going to training. I’m glad I changed my mind and came to play for the Scholars though.”
Shattered Kangaroos coach Aaron Gorrell would’ve preferred Crisp did retire last year after the dynamic pivot punished his side for playing ‘dumb football’.
“We spoke about it before the game and at half-time,” said Gorrell. “If you want to play first grade football you have to be better than that and smarter than that.”
“We were very ordinary and it’s a shame we saved it for the day that matters most.”
Whilst Gorrell was bitterly disappointed to have lost the grand final, he can be proud of his side’s efforts not only in the grand final in which the lead swung back and forth constantly, but throughout the season.