The Corrimal Cougars have qualified for their first Reserve Grade Grand Final since 1989 with a 13-12 Preliminary Final win over Collegians at Collegians Sports Complex on Saturday.
After making the finals for the first time in 10 years last season, the Cougars have gone another step further, courtesy of a match winning field goal to captain Josh McConnell in the dying stages.
Corrimal president Grant Plecas said the win “was just unbelievable” for the Cougars, who have struggled to compete with bigger clubs in recent seasons.
“34 years ago was the last time we were in the Grand Final for Reserve Grade,” he said.
“It’s been a long time coming for the club, and it’s something we’ve been working towards for a number of years from the juniors.
“This [success] is gonna transpose into the next couple of years being strong in First Grade we hope.”
Plecas said that the dramatic ending to the match, where McConnell nailed a 36-metre field goal despite not being a noted kicker, caught many within the club by surprise.
“I don’t know how, I haven’t spoken to Josh about it, the hooker threw it to him instead of the halfback,” he said.
“He did his normal thing, his little drop goal and kicked it 36 metres over the goals, and just to see the elation in our team [was unbelievable].
“I think there was ten seconds left on the clock once they blew the whistle to say that was a successful kick.”
Corrimal now face Minor Premiers Wests on Saturday at WIN Stadium in their attempt to win their first major open age title since 1983.
Meanwhile, in first grade, Thirroul scored a 26-16 upset win over De La Salle Caringbah to gain a spot in the next weekend’s grand final.
After losing two of their last three regular season matches to finish fourth, the Butchers have found form at the right end of the season and will now face Collegians in the decider.
Illawarra Rugby League Operations Manager Blake Edwards said he was excited for what shapes as an “entertaining contest” between the two rivals, with many key player match-ups to look forward to.
“It will be very interesting, the Butchers are a bit of a dark horse,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to the battle of the fullbacks, young Callum Gromek [for Collegians] against the experienced Wayne Bremner for Thirroul.
“In the halves as well, Zeik Foster and Tarje Whitford, I think that’ll be a key matchup.
“I think it will be closer than everyone thinks.”
Grand final day kicks off at 9:45am on Saturday with the Under 18s match between Thirroul and Wests, followed by Berkeley taking on Avondale in the second division finale, Reserves and then First Grade.