Walker brilliance gets Seagulls final glory
TWO brilliant tries from Tweed Heads fullback Shannon Walker in the space of four minutes helped Seagulls to an historic win in the Queensland Cup grand final in Brisbane on Saturday.
Seagulls downed reigning premiers Redcliffe 28-16 at Suncorp Stadium to become the first NSW club to lift the greatest prize in Queensland rugby league.
Walker, who earlier in the week had picked up the league's Best and Fairest and Rookie of the Year awards, brought the 7000-plus crowd to it's feet midway through the second half with two dazzling displays of elusive running and sheer speed to break Redcliffe's spirit and send Tweed supporters into scenes of wild jubilation.
"He's just unreal," Tweed Seagulls coach Troy McCarthy said of his star fullback after the final siren. "He has a great combination of speed and timing ... what can you say."
Indeed what can be said of a player that creates excitement in the crowd every time he touches the ball?
However Walker was modest and his starring role in the grand final and was happy just to soak up the atmosphere and the euphoria of winning the Queensland Cup.
Walker's brilliance may have put the game beyond doubt for Tweed but it was an outstanding team performance that set up Seagulls victory.
The match started slowly for Seagulls who looked as though the sense of occasion might get the better of them in the opening stanzas.
Redcliffe opened the scoring in the eighth minute when halfback Chris Fox dashed over. Winger Alwyn Simpson, one of three players back in the Redcliffe side after playing for the Broncos last weekend, converted to hand the Dolphins a 6-0 lead.
Seagulls responded to the early setback and in the 18th minute Tweed centre David Myles pounced on a Tim Maccan grubber to score the first of his two tries for the day. Gulls captain Brad Davis, who won the inaugural Duncan Hall Medal for the best and fairest player of the match, landed the conversion to level the scores.
"Our defence was under pressure but the boys stayed focused and held them out," McCarthy said.
"It seemed to give us the spark to settle into the game and we began to follow the game plan more and things started to work for us.
"Our aim was the keep the ball in the middle of the field and take it up to them, especially around the ruck."
Seagulls' tactics took their toll as the big Redcliffe forwards began to struggle in the warm conditions.
Davis made the most of the situation, strolling through some sloppy defence to score beside the posts in the 29th minute.
Myles was in again right on the half time to hand Tweed an 18-6 lead at the break.
"We knew that Redcliffe would come out firing in the second half but I said to the players just to stay with what we had been doing and keep our defensive line strong," McCarthy said.
The Dolphins dug deep in the opening minutes of the second half and when Seagulls second-rower Selasi Berdie was forced from the field, they capitalised with centre Nick Emmett crossing to close the gap to 18-12.
Seagulls' fans were keeping their fingers crossed that history wouldn't repeat itself.
In their previous two encounters, Redcliffe have come form behind to beat Seagulls 22-18 after Seagulls have lead in both games.
Nathaneal Barnes looked to have extended Seagulls lead in the 56th minute but the try was denied after the referee wrongly ruled the ball had gone over the touchline.
But just six minutes later and Walker stepped up to show his speed and skill, flying onto a Matt Pow pass to score near the posts. Davis, who finished with an unblemished goal-kicking record extended the advantage to 24-12.
However, Redcliffe refused to concede, launching an attacking chip kick only to have Walker scoop it up.
The flying fullback then showed why he is one of the hottest items in rugby league, leaving a trail of Dolphin defenders in his wake as he raced 80 metres to score and put the result beyond doubt.
Redcliffe winger Rory Bromley scored a consolation try in the 73rd minute but by then the Seagulls where on their way to history.
For Myles, it was a fitting way to end his outstanding rugby league career that included stint with the Gold Coast Chargers, Warriors and North Queensland. His composure in the centres was a key to Seagulls success this season.
Seagulls forwards again showed they could match it with the best with hooker Matt King, prop Chris Enahoro, second rower Will Matthews and lock Matt Pow doing plenty of work. Replacement forwards Andre Amato and hooker Daniel Evans also impressed.
TWEED HEADS 28 (David Myles 2, Shannon Walker 2, Brad Davis tries; Brad Davis 4 goals) REDCLIFFE 16 (Chris Fox, Nick Emmett, Rory Bromley tries; Alwyn Simpson 2 goals)