THERE was a moment in about the 60th minute of Sunday’s grand final when any hopes of an upset Mitchell Magpies victory were put to bed, and when spectators were left wondering how and when any club will mount a realistic chance of toppling the sublime Roma Cities from their dominating reign over the south western rugby league competition.

Cities centre Tom Barron had already broken a longstanding 10-14 deadlock earlier in the second half when he pounced on a loose ball under the posts to give his side a 10-point lead.

But the Magpies weren’t giving up, and in that 60th minute were mounting an enthusiastic approach towards the try line which might have kept their premiership hopes alive when Roma’s class suddenly broke the hearts of Mitchell supporters.

Roma Cities prop Cooper Dingle races away to set up the key winning try over Mitchell. IMAGE: Malcolm Waldron

Prop Cooper Dingle produced a thumping charge down and regather before sprinting away, finding his captain Tom Packer on the inside as Mitchell fullback Les Wortley ran the front rower down.

And when Packer didn’t quite have the legs either, halfback Cameron Bartley was there in support to receive the offload and score under the posts to put their third consecutive premiership beyond doubt.

“It was just sensational. He (Dingle) has broken all the prop rules,” Cities coach Peter Cherry said after the game.

“They’ve got trust and belief in each other. They know that the bloke beside them is not going to let them down, and they’re not going to let the bloke next to them down.

“It’s their hard work and commitment that showed today. It’s their commitment, their teamwork – just their faith and belief in each other.

“I’m always edgy in a coaching position but I knew the grind was going to happen and that they’d get out on top.”

Magpies were genuine contenders throughout that “grind” period, and there was palpable belief among the hundreds of Mitchell locals who travelled east for game that they might witness their team win its first title in two decades.

Halfback and five-eighth combination, coach Thomas Kennedy and captain Ollie Peak, lead from the front, while second rower Will Jones and hooker Isaac Page put up their typically formidable defence.

But it will require a better drilled team with greater depth across the park to finally beat the Cities team of “robots”, as Peak described them, who know and perform their roles with such consistency that they’ve been undefeated since the first round of 2021.

Roma ultimately ran away to record a 38-10 grand final victory.

Cities five-eight Alex Coonan spreads the ball. IMAGE: Malcolm Waldron


“This game 16 years in the making, so it’s a pretty special bunch of of boys coming through in the past five or so years or so,” said Peak, referring to the last time Mitchell played in a grand final.

“We’ve been building and building. Sometimes it takes a loss to win one, so we’ll see you back here next year. But I couldn’t be more proud of the team today.”

In Reserve-grade the Taroom Wandoan Battlers won their second consecutive grand final and minor premiership, overcoming Roma Cities who’ve been the only team to beat them over the past two seasons.

Captain Clancy Stanford and try scorer Cody Steadman were among the forwards who continually wore down the opposition.

Wallumbilla Under-18s captain Matt York was named best and fairest in the competition.

Stanford’s brother, fullback Sam Stanford, had a standout performance with two tries. He nearly scored three tries but for the fact his toenail grazed the touch line as he screamed away to score at the start of the game.

Veteran playmaker Jim Conway was awarded best and fairest in the Reserve-grade competition.

“Cities gave it to us today. It was ripper of a game,” Clancy Stanford said.

“We just wanted to keep it simple, play through the middle, complete our sets and earn the right to go wide or kick. It’s great to win two premierships in a row.”

The Under-18s premiership was won by the Wallumbilla Red Bulls, who racked up 40 points to beat St George, while St George beat the Red Bulls in a nail-biter in Under-16s.

St George celebrates their grand final victory over Wallumbilla. IMAGE: Supplied
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