Barry Berrigan will play fullback for the Gympie Devils in their first grand final against Nambour, tomorrow.
Barry Berrigan will play fullback for the Gympie Devils in their first grand final against Nambour, tomorrow. BRETT WORTMAN

History beckons for Gympie Devils

TOMMOROW 17 Devils’ players will run on to the Nambour showgrounds to battle it out for Gympie’s first ever Sunshine Coast/Gympie Rugby League Premiership.

They will carry the hopes of the town on their shoulders as they take on the Nambour Crushers on their home turf.

Gympie has long been the league minnows of the Sunshine Coast. Just five years ago the club’s future hung in the balance – poor performances in the top grade saw player numbers drop at training, while crisis meetings discussed dropping the club back into C division.

Ex-Devils’ committee member and Gympie State High school rugby league co-ordinator Bob Leitch said a bold move by the club at the time saved the Devils.

The club, with the help of sponsors and the Brisbane Broncos, employed ex-Bronco Darren Burns to be a development officer in the region.

Leitch says this was the beginning of the Devils’ resurgence.

“The club decided to bite the bullet and spend some money,” Leitch said.

Burns’ skill on the field as a player, and off the field as a coach and mentor, saw the profile of the game lift in Gympie.

Leitch said there was a misconception about town that the Devils have bought a lot of players, but he said if you look at the team, most of them are locals and a lot are products of Burns’ time in Gympie. He pointed out players like Nick Swan, Ben Ashford, Shaun Wilson, Brad English, Reece Coleman and Josh Cumner.

“Nick was in Year 12, Ben in Year 11 and Josh in Year eight.

“They have all benefited from the program and now they are playing in a grand final.”

Leitch said he would love to see the Devils win tomorrow, but whatever happens, just making the grand final is success in itself.

He said all present and past committee members, sponsors, volunteers and supporters deserved a reward for their hard work at the club.

Tomorrows final gets underway at 5.30pm but the Devils are asking as many supporters as possible to attend.

In particular, Gympie juniors are invited to wear club colours and join in the march past before the game at 5pm at the Nambour Showgrounds.

“They have all benefited from the program and now they are playing in a grand final.

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