By Shane Jones
It was a weekend of mixed emotions for the Bundaberg Bears.
But at least in their home event the team took home some silverware.
Bundaberg didn’t win the 47th Battalion, extending its drought in the competition to eight years as Toowoomba won for the third time in four attempts.
But the Bears were able to win the next best thing, the plate.
Bundaberg started with a loss to South West, 18-6, which eliminated them from the main competition.
The Bears were able to bounce back with a win 16-0 over Gladstone to set up a match in the plate final against Wide Bay.
In one of the contests of the tournament, Bundaberg won after being pushed all the way.
Bundaberg raced to an 18-4 lead, off the back of a double to Layton Chambers, before Wide Bay scored a late try to make it 18-8 at half time.
Wide Bay then fought back and scored two tries to lead 20-18 with a few minutes left on the clock.
Wide Bay also had a one man advantage with Caleb Tull sent off for Bundaberg.
But Bundaberg fought back to score late through Matt Ross and lead 22-20 before controversy hampered the final two minutes of play.
Wide Bay was awarded a late penalty, and could have levelled the game if it took the two points on offer.
Instead the team went for a try but were unable to get the result with Bundy holding on for victory.
“I’m happy for the boys to win, from where they were to where they got to,” Bundaberg coach Dave Pearce said.
“It was unfortunate in the first game, it was a lot of their errors that cost them.
“They picked it up in the second game (against Gladstone) but a lot of teams points were scored from their mistakes.”
Pearce said the squad changed from when it was first announced to when the side started playing on Saturday.
And he praised those that came in late.
“Royce Blair and Jesse Robertson get special mention,” Pearce said.
“They didn’t let us down and performed well.”
The team also lost Kevin Sherriff in the first game, due to an eye socket injury, before also losing Zak Bainbridge in the last match to a knee injury.
It left the team down on players at the end.
Pearce said while he was happy with how it went, it didn’t reflect what a true Bundaberg team could look like.
He’s now calling for Bundaberg players to get more passion behind the jersey.
“The young players in this district need to make up their mind whether they want to play rep football or social park football every week,” he said.
And he’s also wanting changes in how the squad is picked after the training sessions were left late and not every player turned up.
“I think what the league needs to look at is to select a squad of 30 players and come together once a week from early February onwards,” Pearce said.
“Out of that squad of 30 players if one becomes unavailable you put another one in.
“It’s a very difficult task (to have a strong squad) when players are unavailable and stuff like that.”
Pearce said the side could learn a couple of things from Wide Bay, who impressed.
The side played four matches and won a lot of respect from the opposition.
Wide Bay started with a loss to Toowoomba, before matching Rockhampton for a half. But losing to them meany they were eliminated from the 47th Battalion trophy.
The side then defeated Gladstone to qualify for the final against Bundy, which was lost in the final moments.
The win against Gladstone was the first win in five years for the team.
“A lot of people doubted us, they said we didn’t have the right coaching staff or the right players,” Wide Bay coach Andrew Filo said.
“I had blokes that had injuries that shouldn’t have gone in but they did it for their mates, I couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”
Filo said the focus was now to build on it for future 47th Battalion tournaments.
“We’re building a pride culture that when we put on our jersey we want to play for each other,” he said.
“We have a stepping stone here and it’s just about building for next year.”
The 47th Battalion will come back next year with a venue to be announced soon.