Devils snatch first-time win
ONCE the easy- beats of the Sunshine Coast/Gympie rugby league, the Gympie Devils, are now the champions and look poised to stay at the top for some time into the future.
The Devils put on a dominant second half display after trailing 6-0 at half-time to beat the Nambour Crushers 22-6 in front of a huge crowd at the Nambour Showground on Saturday night.
The win was the first-ever premiership for the Gympie club in its 12-year history.
Darren Burns was the hero, scoring two tries and winning the man of the match honours in his last game before retirement.
Picking the Mal Meninga Medal winner wouldn't have been easy for selectors.
A number of Devils put their hand up in the final with great games.
Ex-Bronco Barry Berrigan had his best game for the Devils. His darting runs out of dummy half had the Nambour defence stretched.
Five-eight Craig Marshall, playing with a broken hand, fought through the pain to put on an inspirational tackling and attacking display. Every Devils' forward, including captain Trent Callaghan, could have won the honour.
Coach John Greensill, a foundation member of the club, called the victory well worth the wait.
He said Nambour came out firing in the first half scoring the first try through centre Scott Miller.
"We expected Nambour to come at us in the first 40 minutes," Greensill said.
"They were trying to win the grand final in the first half."
The Devils had the majority of the ball in the first half, but inspirational defence by the Crushers saw them keep the Devils out.
In one Devils raid rookie hooker Shaun Wilson was denied a try, after a scoot from dummy half by a Nambour boot.
"We were unlucky not to score in the first half," Greensill said.
"We had a fair bit of possession.
"We were well and truly in the game even down 6-0 at half-time,' Greensill said.
The coach rallied his troops at half-time telling them that Nambour had played their grand final already and couldn't go any better.
He told the Devils they could play better and needed to get to the advantage line more often.
"Things started to click in the second half. Our forwards kept rolling forward and tired them out," Greensill said.
"You get tired knocking big forwards over all game."
The Devils second half turned around when in the 52nd minute five-eight Craig Marshall toed through a clever kick which was fumbled by Nambour and pounced on by lock Trent Callaghan.
After that try momentum swung to the Devils.
A glut of ball saw huge Gympie forwards Kurt Fleming, Riley McDowall, Brad English and Josua Koroibulu open up a tiring Nambour defence and then Berrigan cut them to shreds.
The ex-Bronco rake was at his best setting up numerous attacking raids and was unlucky not to score.
IN the 64th minute Nick Swan showed his skill and speed when he darted from a scrum base win 20 metres out to score under the posts.
After Swan converted his own try the Devils then led 10-6.
The next Burns try was the match winner. He chased a Swan grubber kick in the 71st minute, dived on it, rolled and scored.
Burns was swamped by team mates as they knew they had the final.
When Burns ran onto a Kane Ernst pass three minutes later to score his second try the crowd and Burns erupted.
He ran with his hands in the air celebrating in front of a grandstand full of Gympie supporters who returned the gesture.
Coach Greensill was full of praise for his players and made special mention of Berrigan.
He heaped praise on the ex-NRL star saying it was the best game he had ever played for the Devils.
He said Devils captain Trent Callaghan got player's player of the final series.
"We made a special trophy for player's player of the final," he said.
The coach said winning the final was one of the best things to happen to him. "I got this feeling with about six minutes to go - I knew we had it," Greensill said.
"It is something I can't explain.
"For all these years we have been trying (to win a premiership) and then for it to happen is surreal.
"The crowd was unbelievable, we had so many people there, we drowned Nambour out.
"If there were 5000 people there, 3000 would have been from Gympie," he said.
Devils captain Trent Callaghan said the Devils showed how good they are on Saturday.
"To be behind at half-time and go on to win a grand final is unbelievable," Callaghan said.
"It is my first grand final win in 22 years and it feels great. The crowd was outstanding in the game it was like a bombshell had gone off.
"They have been outstanding all year and it was great for them to come down to the final," he said.