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George Tooke Shield mid-season review

We’ve reached the halfway mark of the 2024 Blumers Lawyers George Tooke Shield, and the men’s tackle and women’s league tag competitions have lived up to expectations.

With seven rounds in the books, Canberra Region Rugby League’s Jeff Hanson has run his eye over the men’s tackle competition, rating each team on their start to the season.

Bungendore Tigers

Position: 1st

Racing: 9.5/10

Record: Six wins, one loss (12 points)

Predicted finish: Minor premiers

Best result: Bungendore’s 50-nil win over Harden in Round One sent shockwaves throughout the Blumers Lawyers George Tooke Shield competition.

Summary: If there were a betting market for the George Tooke Shield, Bungendore would be the red-hot favourites.

The Tigers have been on another level since their 24-22 loss to the Brahmans in Binalong in Round Three.

Scoring a competition-high 334 points while keeping teams to just 54 points, Bungendore put the competition on notice on Saturday, thrashing the UC Stars 92-nil at Mick Sherd Oval.

Bungendore coach Jack Bramley has his stacked side firing, and barring significant injuries, the Tigers will take a world of beating in the second half of the season.

Cootamundra Bulldogs

Position: 2nd

Rating: 9/10

Record: Six wins, one loss (12 points)

Predicted finish: Runners-up

Best result: Cootamundra’s 18-14 win over Harden in Round Three was a result a long time in the making.

Summary: Apart from their 40-6 loss to Bungendore in Round Four, Cootamundra has been playing excellent rugby league.

The Bulldogs knocked off close rivals Harden 18-14 and Binalong 38-20, and against teams further down on the ladder, they’ve racked up some significant results, defeating UC Stars 52-14, Crookwell 32-nil, North Canberra 46-6, and most recently, Boorowa 36-16.

The Bulldogs, led by the returning David Buttriss, boast some of the most exciting attacking players in the competition and appear to have the best chance of stopping Bungendore.

Binalong Brahmans

Position: 3rd

Rating: 8/10

Record: Five wins, three losses (ten points)

Predicted finish: 4th

Best result: A 24-22 win over Bungendore in Round Three surprised many CRRL pundits

Summary: If we had done this list two rounds ago, Binalong would have been at the top after starting the season with five straight wins.

Since then, they have run into Cootamundra and Harden, going down 38-20 and 14-10, respectively.

There’s no doubting the Chris Rawlinson-led side's ability to win games, but back-to-back losses are worrying as they head into the June long weekend bye and the back half of the season.

Harden Hawks

Position: 4th

Rating: 7/10

Record: Five wins, three losses (ten points)

Predicted finish: 3rd

Best result: Harden knocked off the Brahmans 14-10 in Binalong on Saturday.

Summary: The Nick Hall-coached Harden Hawks are building nicely.

After a closely fought 18-14 loss to Cootamundra in Round Three, Harden has won four on the trot.

The Hawks have won five from seven and boast a negative for and against, which is unusual, but it highlights their tenacity and will to win.

Scrappers and fighters, the Hawks are finding results and will continue to improve as they get fitter and more cohesive in the second half of the season.

Boorowa Rovers

Position: 5th

Rating: 5/10

Record: Three wins, four losses (six points)

Predicted finish: 5th

Best result: A 38-28 win over Crookwell in the Grand Final rematch in Round Three was an important result for Boorowa.

Summary: The reigning premiers have been hot and cold in 2024. Unable to win back-to-back games, Boorowa has won three out of seven but has only knocked off teams below them, defeating Northern Canberra, Crookwell, and the UC Stars.

If Alex Stewart’s side wants to compete in the second half of the season and be a threat during finals, they need to find a way to compete against the likes of Bungendore, Cootamundra, Binalong, and Harden.

North Canberra Bears

Position: 6th

Rating: 4/10

Record: Two wins, five losses (four points)

Predicted finish: 6th

Best result: North Canberra won what was essentially a must-win game when beating the Green Devils 26-14 in Crookwell on Saturday.

Summary: After a strong finish to their 2023 campaign, North Canberra has been a touch underwhelming in 2024, winning just two games while conceding the second-most points (228).

The Bears have it in them, and in Round One, they almost defeated Boorowa when going down 22-17 at Kaleen.

Still, their best and worst are worlds apart, and they need to find consistency if they are to make a late-season run for the George Tooke Shield finals.

Crookwell Green Devils

Position: 7th

Rating: 3/10

Record: One win, six losses (two points)

Predicted finish: 7th

Best result: A Round Four, 36-18 win over the UC Stars.

Summary: Last year’s grand finalists have struggled in 2024. With new coach David Kent dealing with an exodus of players and injuries to key personnel, Crookwell has won the one match.

That victory came in Round Four when defeating the UC Stars 36-18.

The Green Devils have been competitive, pushing Boorowa in Round Three before going down 38-28. They are one of the few teams not to be belted by Bungendore, going down 34-18 in Round Five.

Still, it’s hard to see the Green Devils figuring in the 2024 finals, but they’ll be a headache for sides in the back half of the season.

UC Stars

Position: 8th

Rating: 2/10

Record: No wins, seven losses (zero points)

Predicted finish: 8th

Best result: Nothing to write home about.

Summary: It’s been a winless start to the season for the UC Stars.

Adam Booth’s side reached a new low in Round Seven, going down to Bungendore 92-nil, but the Stars keep turning up, and they’ll look forward to Crookwell (Round 11) and North Canberra (Round 12) as they chase an elusive victory.

Image by Lauren Woodward Photography

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.