Another glorious winter’s day graced North Sydney Oval as we headed into Round 22 of the Knock On Effect NSW Cup last Sunday. We kicked off the day early with hundreds of U10 and U11 junior league players from across North Sydney, Manly and Parramatta districts competing to take out the inaugural Don McKinnon Shield. A fantastic display of teamwork, sportsmanship and skill was on display as the teams played round robin games culminating in grand finals in each age group being played as the curtain raisers for the main game, Bears v Eels. Congratulations to the Windsor Wolves who won the U10 shield and Belrose Eagles who won the U11’s division. Special mention to the North Sydney Brothers U10s team who made it through to the Grand Final, only narrowly missing out on lifting the shield. Big thanks to the great man himself, Don McKinnon on supporting the kids and awarding the winners and runners up with medals and of course his namesake shields.
As we headed towards the 3pm kick off, you could hear the chant of “Bears, Bears, Bears” erupt from an excited bunch of juniors who were ready to run up the players tunnel and on to the field ahead of the senior Bears team. Their excitement and passion for rugby league was infectious and sent our boys out to take on the Eels with a sense of pride and duty. After kicking off, it was fifteen minutes before any points were scored and it was Regan Hughes who lit up the board for the first time on the day. The number 8 simply powered his way over the line, Kieran Hayman converted, and we were away. It was like a volcano had erupted and boy did the team bring the heat. Seven minutes later, the ball sweeps to the wing, Toa Mata’afa gets a quick pass off and Fetalaiga Pauga easily steps it in to give Hayman a neat conversion and we are in the lead 12 – 0. Only moments later, the Bears are on the attack again this time to the far wing. Tui Katoa takes the easy points; the conversion is waived away, and the scores sits at 16 – 0. The Eels finally break their drought with five minutes left in the half busting over the line and taking their only points of the game. The score shows 16 – 4 at the change of ends, with the good guys in the lead.
As the afternoon sun starts to drop to the west, the silhouettes of historic North Sydney Oval shimmer. The hill dwellers lean back, tip their hats and enjoy the beers while watching the Bears entertain. Within 3 minutes of kick off, Bears are on the charge, Ben Stevanovic chips forward a kick that bounces perfectly into the hands of a fast-paced Pauga who breaks the defence and dives for the line to take his second try of the game. Hayman converts and the Bears extend their lead. At it again, Ben Marschke is next to step through the Eels weak defence and ground the ball under the posts right in front of the magnificent Moreton Bay Fig tree. Again, Hayman converts and with just under thirty minutes to go the score shines at 28 – 4. The Eels seem to halt the onslaught for around ten minutes, but the Bears still have more to say! With twenty minutes to go, the red & black move the ball across the field in five passes, Katoa makes a break but finding himself pinned against the sideline gets off a cheeky chip that dribbles over the try line and into the path of a storming Elie El-Zakhem who says thank you very much, adding the four points. Hayman converts and the crowd is starting to feel a bit cocky about this game. The confident on-field play continues, speedy outside back Allan Fitzgibbon streaks down the sideline in front of the cheering hill. Weighing up his option, Fitzgibbons taps the ball cross field where our Captain, Zach Dockar-Clay is following the play, scoops up the kick and takes it to the line. To finish off the Bears points, Hayman converts his 6th goal of the game, and the Bears take a massive win 40 – 4. Huge win at home! Our attack was on fire, but it would have to be the team’s defence that was the star of that game. Multiple held ups in goals, try saving tackles and all-round beef in defence see the team keep the opposition to just single digits. Bears remain in top position on the ladder, clear of second place by five points at the end of round 22 and with four games left of the regular season.
Click image below to watch the game highlights >>
ROUND 23: BEARS V KNIGHTS
For our last away game of the 2023 regular season, we are heading north on Saturday to take on the Newcastle Knights at their Centre of Excellence. We last met the Knights at North Sydney Oval for our Anzac Day Round, a very special occasion on this season’s calendar. The Bears are remaining levelheaded in the full understanding of the task ahead over the next four rounds and focused on completing each game to the coaching teams game plan. We hope to see our Newcastle and Central Coast fans out in support of the boys on Saturday.
Check out Head Coach Jason Taylor’s team named to get the job done >>