By HARRY CLARKE
ROMA Cities’ top rugby league side has convincingly beaten neighbourly rivals, Wallumbilla Surat Red Bulls, to clinch the district’s 2021 premiership.
Their 34-10 grand final victory caps off a dominant season for Cities, in which they were just two points shy of being undefeated.
Finals day at Roma drew what competition president Peter Flynn said was the biggest rugby league crowd seen at Basset Park for “many years”.
“These two clubs have a terrific rivalry and today they’ve certainly epitomised the strength of the Roma and District Rugby League competition this year,” Flynn said.
The Taroom Wandoan Battlers won the reserve grade premiership. In under-18s it was the Wallumbilla Red Bulls while Cities also won in under-16s.
Speaking on behalf of Cities A-grade after being awarded the minor premiership, five-eighth Alex Coonan said their dominance on the scoreboard did not reflect the strong contest between the two clubs over a long period.
“We’ve had some awesome battles over the last seven or eight years,” Coonan said.
“There’s not much between us. They should hold their heads high and be proud.”
It took only five minutes for Cities to open their points tally when left winger AJ Riley crossed in the corner.
Five minutes after that, dummy half Joey Packer dived over under the goal posts to give the men in blue a dominant start.
An at times very gusty north-westerly caused problems for kickers and receivers from both teams but Cities were able to use the wind to their advantage during the first half in particular.
Coonan’s long kicking from first receiver, coupled with Packer’s speed and precision from the play-the-ball, ensured the home team dominated field position.
Prop Ryley Shelswell was one of the standout forwards while fullback Billy Coonan showed plenty of pace out wide with a runaway try.
A huge defensive effort across the field ensured the Red Bulls struggled to get out of their own half for large chunks of the game.
Roma’s biggest threat came from the Red Bulls’ left side attack. Centre Nathan Callaghan made plenty of metres while forwards John Russo, Harvey Wright and John Frith kept the blue defenders busy.
But Cities dominated the game like they did the whole season, for a fitting premiership win.
“We’ve had a few regular A-graders drop off this year, so we’ve had a pretty new side,” Coonan said.
“It took a while for us to get going, but once we were rolling it all clicked pretty nicely.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys. We had some young fellas making their A-grade debut this year.
“Today we had without a doubt the biggest crowd I’ve seen here. It’s been an awesome year.”