QUEANBEYAN Whites second grade coach Graham Cleal has called for changes to be made to the ACT Rugby finals system after Queanbeyan’s grand final showdown against Wests ended in farcical scenes last Saturday.
Queanbeyan and Wests were anointed as joint premiers of this year’s second grade competition after the two sides finished regulation time locked at 22-all in last weekend’s decider.
The decision to award a joint premiership came despite the on-field referee initially indicating to the two clubs extra-time would be played, denying Queanbeyan the opportunity at a penalty goal that would have secured a last-gasp victory.
“We got a penalty after the hooter and the referee actually said to our captain [Daniel Hawke] it’d five minutes each way so he grabbed the ball and kicked it out,” Cleal said.
“I heard the boys tossing it up [whether to take the shot at goal] but it was on the touchline a fair way out and they were worried it might fall short and hand over possession. It would have been a good kick but you never know what might have happened.
“We were pretty happy to boot it out and play extra-time so there was a mixed response from the referee and the officials at the end. It was a bit of a misunderstanding and a bit of drama but we have to accept it.”
Previously, ACT Rugby’s competition rules held in the event of a drawn final, the team that finished higher on the ladder at the end of the regular season would be named as premiers.
That regulation was changed this year however, allowing for the awarding of a joint premiership.
Cleal said he was fully supportive of introducing extra-time for next year’s finals series in order to avoid a repeat of this year’s tied result.
“Extra-time is certainly something ACT Rugby needs to look at,” he said. “You can’t have a season of 19 rounds come down to a joint premiership in my opinion.
“This is one step below premier grade and blokes at this level deserve a chance to win the premiership.”
Queanbeyan had done well simply to claw its way back into contention at the final whistle having trailed for a majority of the match.
The Whites had gone into the contest on a high having easily accounted for minor premiers Tuggeranong in the semi-finals but were far from at their best against a determined Wests outfit.
And in the final wash up, Cleal said having Queanbeyan’s name inscribed on the premiership trophy was the ultimate reward.
“I think all the boys had mixed feelings about it,” he said. “We didn’t win but we didn’t lose either so it was a bit hollow straight after the match but once we looked at it and had a few celebratory drinks that night, it’s not too bad being joint premiers.
“We’re certainly a lot happier being joint premiers than runners up, it’s just a little bit unusual.”