Benny and his Jets are Number One
NOWRA-BOMADERRY captain/coach Ben Wellington described it as “a fairytale come true”, his troops managing one of the greatest surprise wins in recent Group 7 Rugby League grand final history.
The Jets beat minor premiers Warilla-Lake South to take the 2014 first grade title.
Capping off a day of upsets, the Jets stunned the 4000-plus crowd at Collegians Sporting Complex on Sunday by running out to an unexpected 20-0 first half lead, eventually winning 30-20.
Nowra’s sheer speed and veteran halfback Geoff Johnson’s kicking game terrorised their opposition, but the Jets also survived a Gorillas’ resurgence.
The result is a triumph for the Jets, who were winless after five rounds.
Nowra’s last premiership was in 1996 when they competed as the Warriors.
Heavy favourites Warilla were contesting their fourth grand final within the past five seasons, and aiming to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss to Gerringong.
After scoring late comeback victories in their two previous semi-final matches, some scintillating Jets attack left their more fancied opponents stunned.
Wellington said his team had played for one another and “all became brothers”, which proved the difference in close games.
“I felt when we had a 30-all draw against Warilla, and when we played against Shellharbour and Gerringong we just got over them at the end, I thought if it’s gonna happen, it’s gotta happen now,” he said.
“To be up 20-0 in the first 30 minutes, it’s unbelievable – a dream start.
“That doesn’t really happen in grand finals.”
Warilla put them under pressure early, but Nowra opened their account first despite the run of play being against them.
In the 11th minute, the competition’s leading try-scorer Mark Brandon showed trademark speed and elusiveness to score and convert his own try.
The Jets really began to take off when strong go-forward led to deft Johnson lead-up work, finished off by Kurt Quinlan for a 12-0 buffer.
Nowra further added to their tally via a penalty goal, and left the Gorillas shell-shocked when speedster Steve Brandon got on the outside of the defence and ran more than 60 metres to touch down.
Back-to-back converted tries to Damien Paulissen and Tyson Brown on the back of a few defensive lapses reminded Nowra of the Gorillas’ strike-power and superior size.
The teams headed into the sheds at 20-12.
Upon the resumption, after having a try disallowed just moments earlier, Warilla continued to hammer the Jets’ goal-line.
They shifted the ball wide and Brown scored in similar fashion to his first effort.
Craig Nolan missed the conversion, but at 20-16 the Gorillas appeared in control.
However, the Jets displayed a knack for hanging tough throughout 2014, and shortly after the hour mark a Johnson cross-field bomb was spilled and Keiran Brandon pounced for a 24-16 lead.
The Jets truly soared two minutes later, scoring a sensational try.
Warilla let a Johnson bomb bounce; the ball went through several sets of hands before finding fullback Isaac Mumberson.
The ensuing conversion afforded them a 14-point advantage.
Despite enjoying some quality possession and field position, Warilla struggled to convert opportunities into points.
Paulissen’s (who was playing his final game) second with less than four minutes remaining proved to be little consolation to the Gorillas.
Wellington praised his team for being able to weather the Gorillas’ storm.
“When the momentum shifts you’ve just got to be able to limit how much time they get with the ball and how many points they get, and we done that pretty good I believe.
“It’s a fairytale come true.”
Jets’ rookie back-rower Ryan James was named Man of the Match.
Warilla coach Peter Hooper told Fairfax Media that Nowra were outstanding.
‘‘We didn’t execute the way we would’ve liked but there’s no excuses from our department today," he said.
"They continued to keep the ball away from us and completed their sets. Hats off to them.
‘‘We just didn’t get any continuity throughout the game. It’s just one of those things that happens on grand final day sometimes unfortunately.
‘‘I couldn’t ask for any more from my blokes.
'They train hard and do everything to be as professional as they can, and unfortunately we just didn’t get the money today.’’
This article originally appeared in the Kiama Independent on 21/9/2014