Saints descended from everywhere to celebrate the fiftieth year, talked about old times, told some lies and drank the pub dry of beer. As the decade dawned the Lions roared and the future was looking bright, and when the Saints marched in again they sang all day and night … and day and night … and day and night.
2011 was the dawning of a new era for the Saints. The Club had entrenched itself back into the TDRL A Grade competition, the committee had stabilised the finances and Tony Martin had put together a strong squad of players. But, perhaps the most significant step forward was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) that was signed between the Uni Saints and the Western Lions juniors.
The MOA allowed for the Western Lions juniors to have a pathway into the senior competition through Uni Rugby League. The Lions had become one of the strongest junior Clubs in Townsville and their nursery of young players was now to become a significant source of recruits for the Under 18s team and hopefully further on to A Grade.
They played as Western Lions – Saints, and what an impact they had in 2011! Under the coaching of Jason Cook they won the 2011 Under 18s Premiership in a nail biting finish, and they will now forever be entrenched in the Saints history.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the 2011 under 18s premiership team was the fact that they also fulfilled one of the goals of the MOA i.e. they went on to play A Grade. Players like the Tawhai twins, Paul Bunungun, Nick Evans, MJ Nelliman-Adams, Jack Kelleher, Jake McManus, Hayden Crowley, Sam Young and more, have all donned the Blue & Gold of the first thirteen. In years to come, that trend was set to continue as the relationship between the Uni Saints and Western Lions juniors continued to flourish.
In fact 2011 was a terrific year for the Club. ALL three grades made the Finals for the first time in decades, which further reinforced the direction the Club was heading under the guidance of the committee and coaching staff.
Apart from the Under 18s premiership, the most significant event in 2011 was without doubt the Club’s 50th Anniversary Reunion. The event was over a year in the planning and the Reunion committee left no stoned unturned in getting as many past players, committee and coaches back to Townsville for the weekend event in July of 2011.
The MEET AND GREET was held on the Friday night and gave everyone the opportunity to rekindle old friendships in a casual atmosphere at Toms Tavern. It was supposed to be a prelude to the weekend festivities, but, the festivities overtook everyone and we actually drank the pub dry of XXXX Gold.
The GALA DINNER was held on the Saturday night and 300 guests arrived, including JCU Vice Chancellor, Professor Sandra Harding, who made the exciting announcement that the JCU sporting field was to be officially renamed ‘JOE BAKER FIELD’. Club Founder and Life Member, Joe Baker, was in attendance and testimony to the respect held towards him by all invitees was the total silence for the entirety of his engaging address. It was truly a memorable night and the Reunion trend continued when we drank the venue dry of XXXX Gold and more supplies had to be called in.
Needless to say, by the time the Sunday RECOVERY arrived, there were some who certainly were in need of recovery. This final event was held in conjunction with a Club Home Game and the recovery tent was full of old Saints who were prepared to keep ‘putting in’ for the Club. That’s exactly what they did and guess what? We ran out of XXXX Gold. Gee they were good!
Of course the off shoot of the Reunion is that it was the seed for the conception of the FUGS – Former Uni Greats. The old boys incorporation which has since gone on to make significant contributions to the Club.
After a successful 2011 both on and off the field, particularly with all three grades making the TDRL finals, the Club was determined to make 2012 even better, and they didn’t let their supporters down.
Not since the ‘Great Year’ of 1970 has the Club had a more significant on field performance. ALL three grades made the Grand Finals in that season and although we couldn’t match the historic 1970 year of triple premierships, the Under 19s and Reggies didn’t go down without a fight. Most importantly though, the A GRADE won their first premiership since 1995.
2012 Grand Final: Uni ran with the wind in the first half and as the ball was kicked off to them high into the air, in the back ground they could see the SAINT looking down on them from the face of Castle Hill. Both teams suffered injury set backs in the first couple of minutes of play with Brothers losing one of their interchange forwards, but, Uni were far worse off as Captain Jack Cooper was assisted from the field and not to return. Knee injuries were the cause for both and Cooper’s feared to be an ACL rupture.
Brothers kicks were returned with interest by full back Daniel Pickering and wingers Sean Evans and Hayden Crowley. It was in the seventh minute when Uni capitalised on field position and Trevor Bowman ran to the line before grubbering for his brother Nathaniel who touched down within millimeters of the dead ball line. The lead was extended to 10-0 after twelve minutes when a Luke Abdul-Rahman bomb was spilt by Brothers. From the ensuing set, a strong Jake McManus run was followed up by Jack Kelleher who crossed and Nathaniel Bowman converted.
More marauding defence, lead by Mitch Kominski lead to another opposition error and good completions had Brothers dropping out from their goal line in two consecutive sets. In the twentieth minute a scrum fifteen meters out allowed Uni to stretch Brothers to the left and then a long pass back to the right found half back Abdul-Rahman running across field probing, dummying, jinking, SCORING! With Bowman temporarily injured, Evans was unable to convert. 14-0.
Brothers scored an intercept against the run of play from the next set to bring the score line to 14-6, but Uni once again attacked with their defence. So confident were they at this point, that Uni twice refused an easy two points from penalties in front of the posts to chance their arm. On the fourth tackle Bowman went to Kelleher on the left for a strong run beating a defender before off loading deftly to Crowley who went in the corner. A further converted penalty to Brothers on the stroke of half time saw Uni leading 18-12 at the break and wondering whether they would rue and off day with the boot.
In the second half Brothers attacked from the outset, determined to use the wind to their advantage. At the end of one of their sets they put up a massive spiral bomb which would have made any good fullback’s sphincter tighten, but, Pickering was calm and composed. Forging runs by Ryan, who by this stage had already played 25 minutes with a factured jaw, together with Bassett scooting from dummy half created forward momentum for Ben Morgan to power over for a try. Again Uni was unable to convert and led 22-12 with five tries to two.
Bassett and Kominski were tireless, McManus continued to drive forward with Kelleher and the fractured Ryan and the backs were confident and precise with the ball in their hands.Uni went right to drag the brothers defence one way and then quickly back to the left where Bowman tried to beat his man on the outside, but looked destined to be pushed into touch only to get a last ditch hand off to Crowley who weaved back in field and then when he straightened, he beat two defenders and reached for the line to score. Conversion successful. 28-12 with twenty three minutes remaining.
The Saints defence was like a nagging hag. It wouldn’t go away, and was in their face. The Uni defence just wouldn’t stop, so, the supporters started … chanting! UNI! UNI! UNI! UNI! UNI!
The driving defence fuelled the confident attack, because, with fifteen minutes remaining and leading by sixteen, an attempt at penalty goal 30m out seemed the obvious choice and the supported on the hill were pleading with them, “Take the Two! Take the Two!”. Their jaws dropped as they kicked out instead, but that only served to leave an opening for more celebratory beer. From the tap, they took one up and then Abdul-Rahman ran left to find Kominski who sealed his Man of the Match performance by dragging two defenders 10 metres before spinning and reaching out to score.
There was ten minutes left, but with the score 34-12 the singing started. The march had started eighty minutes earlier, the Saints had arrived at the gates and they were going in. The supporters recognised that and echoed the players movement in song. “Oh when the Saints, go marching in …”. Not so angelic, but sounding heavenly.
Brothers scored a consolation try with only minutes remaining, but not even that could dampen the mood of the faithful. When the hooter finally went the players immediately recognised what this meant to everyone at the Club and ran to their adoring supporters. They hugged, laughed and cried together. The game was over, but the celebrations had only just begun. And, in a Club so steeped in tradition and history another chapter had been written.
In 2013, it was always going to be had to replicate the feats of the previous year. Nevertheless, once again all three grades made the TDRL finals, only to all be knocked out in the first weekend.
The Club has enjoyed a fantastic resurgence since 2008 when they only fielded a reserve grade team and a lot of that success could be attributed to President, Alan Yardley. At the 2013 Trophy Night, he was added to the illustrious list of Club Life Members.