After a record 17 premier grade flags and a record 21 club championships, Saturday saw Neddies add another piece of silverware to the trophy cabinet in the form of the RugbyWA Cup – the WA club rugby equivalent of the Ranfurly Shield. (This is no small piece of silverware – it is bigger than most halfbacks).
It was an historic game at HBF Arena in Joondalup as Neddies took on the newly promoted Brothers for the first time in premier grade. On the drive north up the freeway, a few Third Half supporters cast their minds back to 1987 when, in just their second season in the big league, ARKs caused a boilover when they knocked off the reigning premiers by 18-17 at The Foreshore, inspired by a tigerish loose forward by the name of Nudge Edwards (who went on to become a Neddies legend).
There was certainly no reason for complacency, with Joondalup lurking in fourth spot on the ladder and coach Dogga going into the game without several of his backline regulars, including Roo and Davis.
However, Neddies set up the foundations for a solid win with a first half blitz which included tries to debutants Danny Hartwell and Dylan Van Dieman and boom prop Jermaine Ainsely, who looks destined for higher honours in just his first year out of colts.
A couple of penalties and conversions by Ian Prior saw Neddies go to the sheds with a handy 25-7 lead.
Tragedy struck for Neddies in the second half when inside centre Louis Saunders-Loder, another graduate from last year’s Neddies colts team, was
stretchered from the field to Joondalup hospital with a fractured leg. Louis, of fine Motueka stock, has been a rock of consistency in the Neddies backline and will be sorely missed for the rest of the season. Best wishes from all the players and Third Half supporters for a speedy recovery Louis.
Neddies completed the bonus point victory with tries to Shane Hemi and Liam Van Der Westhuizen (playing in his third game of the afternoon) for a 37-7 win to go within striking distance of Wests at the top of the log.
Saturday promises to be another big day down at The Foreshore as Neddies hosts Paly to complete the first competition round with the RugbyWA Cup up for grabs.
Be there. Be loud. Be proud. Go Neddies!!!