By Kevin Braysher
The Burleigh Bears have made history by winning the FOGS Colts Challenge for the first time at Suncorp Stadium.
Battling torrential rain that fell for the vast majority of the game and a fired up Wynnum Manly, the Bears came from behind to grind out a 22-12 win.
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“I’m so happy for this group,” coach Darryl Fisher said. “I’ve coached some of them for three years, a lot of them for the last couple and there’s only one or two that have just come in this year. I was weighing up whether I had the time to commit to coaching this year, but the deciding factor was them.
“They’re an amazing bunch of boys and I’m happy to have been a part of this and help them get the reward that they wanted after some of them had to experience the pain of missing out last year.
“Just to help them in a small part of their careers has been fantastic and I’m really happy to be a part of it.”
Wynnum are the only team that managed to get a win over the Bears all season and they started the game full of confidence.
The Seagulls scored three times in the opening 15 minutes to race to a 12-0 lead and assert the early dominance.
It took the boot of halfback Daniel Schwass to get the Bears back in the contest, as his pin-point kick in the 20th minute was plucked out of the air by Talor Walters who reached out to score under the posts.
That try was the shot of confidence the Bears needed as they went on with the job from there.
Schwass again went to the boot in the 29th minute, this time finding Mitch Doring who offloaded to Rhys Duke which drew scores level.
Three minutes later Jenan Parrish came off the bench to score out of dummy half and give his side an 18-12 lead.
As half time approached the rain began to fall even harder to the point where the start of the second half was delayed. When the player’s returned to the field much of the ground was underwater.
It changed the style of the game dramatically as it became all about retaining possession and winning the battle of the middle.
The only points of the second half came when Daniel Schwass threw a lovely short ball to Sam Swift who hit a hole and charged over to score in the 49th minute.
From there, Wynnum tried to play catch-up and find a way back into the game, but Burleigh’s defence was far too good as they tackled their way to premiership glory.
“We had a harsh start. Wynnum are a big side and they got the better of us in the middle at the start,” Fisher said.
“But I think last time we played them we never got over that because of the possession that we gave them, whereas today I knew if we just held possession and kept it even that we’d probably be a little too quick for them later in the game.
“Certainly at the end of the first half we showed that. The second half was just a really tough defensive effort in what were some pretty wet, miserable conditions.”
Plenty of Bears shined on the day. Halfback Schwass produced three try assists, his halves partner Sam Grant also made his mark controlling the game. Sam Swift was a constant danger on the edges while Talor Walters was a standout at fullback.
However man of the match honours went to Kyle Kalkhovan whose impact off the bench was incredible especially in the second half.
“He was unbelievable,” Fisher said.
“He’s been so good for us for the last six/seven weeks. He’s just got better and better this year.
“This is the second year I’ve coached him and he has improved out of sight. I can’t wait to see what he does at the club over the next couple of years, to be honest.”
The win is the crowning the achievement of this Colts side and a satisfying moment for the Burleigh Colts system which has dominated the division for the last two and a half seasons.
The Colts premiership, to go along with victory in the womens, under 19s and A-Grade competitions as well, is a testament to the young talent coming through the club at the moment.
While some of them will be there for a crack at defending the Colts title next season, many of the players will now move on to more senior football at the club where they will continue to be important parts of the Bears family for years to come.
“They’ve learned a lot this year about committing to what the team needs and hopefully they’ll take that into senior footy,” Fisher said.
“Some of them will stay and play again in the Colts and a lot of the boys that were on the fringes and didn’t play today will go through as well and I think it’s been a good experience for them as well. I still think there will be a strong group of Colts next year as well.
“There is a lot of talent coming through the club. Over the next few years they are going to be a big part of the club, no doubt about that.”