Emus' year of excellence ends in triumph
GOONDIWINDI completed a Wagners Risdon Cup year of excellence on what seemed an inevitable note when they lifted the 2018 premiership trophy at Clive Berghofer Stadium today.
The Emus completed an undefeated year when they held defending premiers Dalby try-less on the way to wrapping up a 23-3 victory.
Goondiwindi's emphatic display ended the Wheatmen's two-year reign as Risdon Cup champions and went part of the way to avenging successive grand-final losses to its fierce rival.
Dalby faced a daunting task in trying to reverse three previous season losses to the Emus and its grand-final start could not have been worse after Goondiwindi posted an unconverted try in the second match minute through winger Tom Jobling.
Will Gilbert slotted a Goondiwindi penalty in the 18th minute of play to extend the Emus' advantage to 8-0
Dalby soon pulled the score back to 8-3 via a Dan Merker penalty goal but that was as close as the Wheatman would get to their relentless opposition.
Five minutes later Goondiwindi centre Harry Hawker dealt a crushing blow to the Wheatmen with a brilliant individual try where he beat several defenders in a 30-metre dash along the sideline to score in the corner.
Gilbert's skilful sideline conversion helped set up a 15-3 half-time advantage to the Emus.
To their credit, the Wheatmen did well to hold the first-half deficit to 12 points while running into a stiff wind with minimal possession to play with.
But there was no way back for them in the second session.
Replacement back Sean Cairns stretched the Emus lead to 20-3 in the 67th minute before Gilbert slammed through a monster penalty from 47 metres out into the wind to round out the 23-3 scoreline with five minutes remaining.
Goondiwindi coach Luke Fritz was a relieved man as he soaked up the achievement of the Emus' removing the "monkey" from their backs.
"It's the old cliche, but it is a relief," Fritz said.
"I don't know what we would have done had we lost this one.
"We were always confident - there was no doubt about that, but the monkey is off our back now.
"I thought we were still a bit under siege at half-time.
"We just said, boys with all you've been through the last three years, it's worth putting your body on the line and they just responded."
Five-eighth Michael Jamieson took out the Vince Birmingham trophy for man of the grand-final while Fritz also singled out forwards Jay Schulte and Yoni Meron as two of the Emus' strongest performers.
Dalby captain Sam Hogarth lauded Goondiwindi's "unreal" year in his post-match speech while departing coach Nathan Bradley said his team was beaten on its merits.
"We had a few injuries early which went against us but in the end we were simply outplayed and good luck to Gundy," Bradley said.
"They wanted it more and they got it.
"Full credit to them."
GOONDIWINDI 23 (Tom Jobling, Harry Hawker, Sean Cairns tries; Will Gilbert conversion, 2 penalties) d DALBY 3 (Dan Merker penalty).
GOONDIWINDI 18 d DALBY 14
DALBY 18 d CHINCHILLA 15
EMILEE CHERRY CUP
TOOWOOMBA BEARS 41 d USQ 0