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Sam Debenham

Bourke will once again host the Barwon Darling Rugby League Grand Final in 2022 but they were made to sweat until the last moment of the men’s Minor Premiership over the weekend to earn the right.

Goodooga showed that there is plenty of footy left to be played in the men’s competition this year as they fought the Warriors to a standstill in the last round of the regular season, finishing locked up in a 22-all draw.

The match was played with the winner to earn hosting rights for the decider and few people would have predicted what would unfold in what was a catch-up game from earlier in the season.

There was still the matter of Bourke’s scheduled game the next day against Newtown as well but on form it was always a game Bourke were likely to (and ultimately did) win.

In the end it was just for-and-against that separated the Warriors and the Magpies.

A comfortable win on Sunday followed for the Warriors to confirm their minor premiership and hosting rights.

They are joined in the Grand Final by Lightning Ridge (League Tag) and Brewarrina (Under 18s, Under 15s and Under 15s League Tag) who claimed a hat-trick of first place finishes in the junior grades.

Sunday’s men’s match became a case of Bourke doing what they had to do in order to confirm their top spot, while Newtown needed to spring the upset of the season to earn a last-minute berth in third spot to push Brewarrina out of the finals.

To their credit the Wanderers made Bourke earn it and at times the toll of the previous day’s match looked to be having an impact but eventually on the back of a match-winning effort from Hogan Shillingsworth in the centres, Bourke did enough to win 44-18.

Shillingsworth scored three tries in a starring role, while as ever, Ed Shepherd was one of the best on ground for Newtown.

The Wanderers took some strides forward this season and enjoyed moments of success but will lament a couple of blow-out defeats that cruelled their hopes of a maiden finals appearance.

The women’s League Tag match from the weekend featured Brewarrina hosting Walgett, who reminded Minor Premiers Lightning Ridge that they still have a fight on their hands.

The Dragons – who will face the Googars women again in the Preliminary Final – enjoyed a 42-12 win, guided as ever by Pam Abel with good support from Kiara Russell, who claimed three tries. Chantal Eyre and Chantale McHughes both scored a try for Brewarrina.

Ridge await the winner of the Bree-Walgett rematch.

The Googars trio of Minor Premierships was led by the Under 15s girls, who cemented their spot on the top of the ladder with a comfortable 38-12 win over Walgett. Taloolah Moore was best afield in the dominant display, scoring a couple of tries and adding a couple of conversions for good measure.

Yma Morris also scored two tries and it would take a bold prediction for anyone to suggest they won’t go into the finals as hot favourites to claim the inaugural title in the grade.

Jakayah French and Taniqua Morris were also strong performers for Bree, while Ally Murray and Tia Kennedy both showed plenty of promise for Walgett.

The Under 18s and Under 15s matches both reached an anticlimax as Brewarrina claimed wins in both grades via forfeit as Walgett were unable to field teams.

It leaves the two Bree junior sides battling for match form despite finishing on top of both grades, with their Under 18s going into the Grand Final against either Lightning Ridge or Walgett having barely played in the past six weeks.

The Under 15s Preliminary Final will be fought out between Bourke and Lightning Ridge for the right to play Bree in the decider.

The same two sides will battle it out in the 15s League Tag for the opportunity to face Bree in that Grand Final as well.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.