Rivalry takes a back seat to respect in John I Dent Cup final

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Two years ago when Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan fought it out for the John I Dent Cup, a Nigel Ah Wong hat-trick broke Whites’ hearts.

This time around, with the Vikings in their eighth straight decider, Ah Wong won’t be there but the Whites aren't celebrating.

Ah Wong’s aunt Sese passed away in recent weeks from Motor Neurone Disease, a backdrop to an emotional lead into the grand final for Tuggeranong, with Canberra favourite Christian Lealiifano also recently diagnosed with leukaemia.

The two recent events have come after major injuries to players in their women’s and colts team, moments that Vikings coach Tim Sampson said had put everything in perspective.

“I think with Christian it’s in the back of people’s minds,” he said.

“When the news broke last Saturday we had training that day and we had a chat about it and we’re with everyone else in the rugby community offering our thoughts and support to Christian and his family.

“The support is there for Nigel in a tough period for him.”

The rivalry between Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan is a fierce one. Photo: Michael DanielSampson, who has only been in Tuggeranong for a season, said the tight knit nature of the Vikings was clear from day one, something embodied in these moments of distress.

“When I first moved down here, I noticed culturally how tight the club is and that’s the playing group and that’s supporters,” he said.

“One thing that should never change in this club is the culture and the way everyone has rallied behind those couple of players.

“You tick the box with the club culture first and foremost breed success on the back end of that.”

Whites coach Adam Fahey said the fierce rivalry between the two clubs would take a backseat on Saturday, with respect the greatest characteristic between the two teams.

“Both teams have an utmost respect with each other and  that’s evident in the way we play and come together after the game," he said.

"Someone was saying to me yesterday that in a Queanbeyan-Tuggeranong game you don’t walk off the field, you crawl.

There’s the physical, combative nature of the games but there’s a healthy respect at the same time.”

Joe Powell is one of a handful of Brumbies lining up on Saturday. Photo: Michael DanielThe Whites will also be celebrating the 100th game of cult figure Jamie ‘Chainsaws’ Marmont, who scored two tries in their preliminary final against Gungahlin.

Saturday’s grand final will feature plenty of Brumbies as well, with a highly-anticipated battle between Tyrel Lomax and Les Makin in the front row.

Queanbeyan and Tuggeranong have played three times this season and the Vikings have come away with the spoils twice, including in the first week of this year’s finals.

The Vikings will be hoping to clinch their sixth title in nine years, after a nail-biting 2015 loss to the Royals.

The John I Dent Cup final will be played at 3:25pm on Saturday, live streamed here.