The Corrimal Cougars have broken a 777-day long drought in the Illawarra Rugby League courtesy of a 36-18 win over Dapto at Ziems Park on Saturday.
Having last won a First Grade game on June 19, 2021, the Cougars washed away two years of pain in a stunning upset over the finals hopeful Canaries. The occasion saw emotions visibly getting the better of many of their players following a long-awaited and spirited rendition of their team song.
Corrimal Captain and Lebanon international Jacob Karam said it was a “pretty awesome” experience to finally get their first win, and to do it in front of some past Corrimal legends on Old Boys Day.
“I’ve only been here this year, it’s just a real reward for effort,” he said.
“We’ve been working hard all year and we’ve been so close.”
“We keep getting better, and we just feel so good, especially to do it today with everyone around.”
Karam said the atmosphere played a massive role in lifting the team, especially in a period in the second half, where the Canaries mounted a comeback, only for the Cougars to strike back and seal the game.
“It felt awesome, just running out today you knew everyone was behind you,” he said.
“They [Dapto] were flat, because they knew that we had all these boys here behind us.”
“We all had a feeling today that we’d get them, and we did.”
Dapto Five-Eighth and former NRL star Brad Takairangi said that though the loss was “disappointing” for the side, their start to the season left them with too much to do in the second half of the year.
“That’s our season done, it’s disappointing,” he said.
“We did this ourselves, we had a terrible start to the year, couldn’t get a win for ages.”
“So we put too much pressure on ourselves at the back end of the year.”
After conceding an early try, the Cougars quickly struck back, before piling on the points in a powerful display to take a 24-6 lead into the break.
Under the pressure of elimination from finals contention, Dapto began to claw back the margin in the second half, with the game getting back to 30-18 with ten minutes to play.
It was to be the Cougars’ day however, with Zachary Riley crossing in front of the Corrimal supporters at the Northern end to seal the win and end one of rugby league’s longest losing streaks.
Meanwhile, in other First Grade games over the weekend, De La Salle took a major step towards winning the Minor Premiership by defeating fellow contenders Collegians 24-6 in Caringbah, while Wests accounted for Thirroul 18-10.
In next weekend’s games, Corrimal travel to Caringbah to face De La Salle, whilst Dapto tackle Thirroul at Gibson Park and Collegians take on Wests in the third Grand Final rematch of the season at Collegians Sports Stadium.