By Jimmy Meiklejohn
An extra time finish and a combined 88 points scored were the ingredients that created a thrilling finish to the CRWRL Autumn season competition.
With both the Red Bears and White Bears locked on 42 points a-piece after 60 minutes, they headed to extra time for the first time in the competition’s history.
Jaimz Knight scored under the posts in the second minute of extra time to give the Red Bears their first win of the season, and more importantly the Grand Final win.
Mitchell Sentance was first to score for the White Bears team, successfully kicking the conversion to give the White Bears a 6-0 lead in the early stages of the match.
Brad Burns extended the lead minutes later, with another successful conversion, to extend the lead for the White Bears to 12.
Sentance would continue the roll for the White Bears, scoring in the 11th minute and pushing the lead to 16.
Burns continued the ambush for the White Bears, scoring his second try of the afternoon and with his successful conversion the score was 22-0 after 14 minutes
Sentence scored his third try of the afternoon next and his successful conversion extended the lead out to 28 points.
But then the cavalry arrived for the Red Bears, as the representative players from Sydney landed in Queanbeyan to have their say on the Grand Final result.
Toby Popple, Knight, and Chris O’Brien joined the Red Bears team, whilst Zac Carl slotted into the White Bears outfit.
Popple quickly had an impact, scoring in the 21st minute to start the fightback but was unable to convert.
Burns would quickly reply for the White Bears, extended their margin once again with his third try of the afternoon.
Knight then showed off his speed for his first try of the afternoon, keeping the Red Bears in the game.
Carl scored next for the White Bears right on the half-time siren, and his successful conversion giving the White Bears a 38-8 lead going into the half-time break.
This would notch up Carl’s 100 points scored for the season, a miraculous effort in four and a half games.
The first half was dominated by White Bears duo Burns and M sentence, who both scored hat-tricks of tries in the opening half.
Knight gave the Red Bears the start they wanted in the second half, scoring in the very first minute of play and successfully kicking the conversion.
O’Brien would then hit the scoreboard, narrowing the margin to eighteen with his successful conversion.
The Red Bears were doing well, with all three of their late inclusions playing a massive part in their fightback.
Knight scored again the 41st minute to further reduce the margin but was unsuccessful with the conversion.
O’Brien crossed again for the Red Bears and suddenly there was a game on our hands, as the margin reduced to ten points.
Carl muscled his way across the line for the White Bears to score a crucial try and stem the flow of the Red Bears offence.
O’Brien crossed the line for his third try of the afternoon and brought the margin back down to ten points once more.
Briley Sentance scored his first try of the afternoon with two minutes to go and with his successful conversion narrowed the margin to just four points.
Knight crossed the try-line on the last play of regular time for the Red Bears, locking the score at 42-42 at the full-time siren.
O’Brien had a conversion attempt from the sideline to try and win the game for the Red Bears but was wide with his attempt.
Knight’s try in overtime was his fifth of the day, and most importantly gave the Red Bears a remarkable 46-42 victory in the CRWRL Autumn Season Grand Final.
Popple was named man of the match for his leadership and play-making skills which set up the Red Bears victory.
As well as the Player of the Match award, the Top Point Scorer was awarded to Zac Carl who scored an overall 106 points in the CRWRL Autumn Season 2021.
The Most Improved award was given to Amanda Carlyon who only started playing wheelchair rugby league at the beginning of the year, and who evidently continues to improve her skills and knowledge of the game each week.
The Red Bears victory was led by Popple, Knight, O’Brien, B Sentance with Michael Medveczky also playing an improved role in the win.
For the White Bears Carl was massive and did everything he could to try and get his team over the line.
Burns, M Sentance and Caelan Cassidy were all big performers for the White Bears on the Grand Final stage.
Both teams also had debutants while the representative boys were absent with Isabella Collins playing the opening 10 minutes for the Red Bears and Jacob Howard playing the same for the White Bears.
The Grand Final was a fantastic way to end the inaugural season of CRWRL, with all signs pointing to a great future for the competition.
CRWRL aims to have three teams up and running for the Spring Season which will begin in the coming months.
We would like to thank all the players, especially those who have travelled to make the CRWRL’s first season such a memorable one.
We will be hosting Come & Try Days leading up to the 2021 Spring Competition with the hope of recruiting fresh players to take part of our inclusive sport.
CRWRL is an all-inclusive sport which is open to all players regardless of age, gender, or ability.
It can be played by both regular and non-regular wheelchair users.
For more information on CRWRL please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.