ACT Brace for Premier Rugby Grand Final Belter

by Brumbies Media

This weekend is set to be a belter with two big rivals going head to head for the big Grand Final.

The Canberra Royals and Gungahlin Eagles will face off this Saturday at Viking Park, Canberra from 3:15pm AEDT. Fans can also tune in LIVE on Bar TV and the Brumbies Rugby Facebook page.

So let’s take a look at how the two sides are measuring up and what’s led them to the big day.

Royals

History

Founded in 1949, Canberra Royals have forever been the benchmark club in ACT Rugby.  

The Club has featured in 70 percent of all Grand Finals since the establishment of Rugby in Canberra and has won a staggering 20 First Grade Premierships, claiming their first crown in 1954.   Royals have also claimed back-to-back… twice…in 1957 & 1958 and 1979 & 1980 plus a three-peat from 1964 – 1966.  

The club even competed in every Grand Final for 10 straight years from 1984-1994, winning five in a row from 1987 to 1991.  

After their victory in ’91, the club’s history took a turn after suffering their largest ever drought. It took until 2015 for Royals to lift the John I Dent Cup again in which a new era was reborn.

Royals added their 19th title in 2017 and in 2020 after beating Tuggeranong at Viking Park.

Season overview

This season Royals have claimed five big wins, four losses and one draw.

Every year, Royals enter the season a little shaky however manage to turn it around and deliver strong results towards the end of the campaign.

Royals may not be made up of superstars however they have a winning culture, and their Brumbies players love to play for them.

They are a ‘sum of their parts’ team, who know how to win the big game.  

Major changes  

Royals lost two modern day heroes after the 2019 Grand Final…Craig McMahon and Jason Swain who both came out of retirement to get Royals back on top before 2019 and helped guide their team to victory.

In 2020 Royals have built their success on stability with Coach Wayne Southwell and Captain Ben Johnston both long term servants from the club.  

Key players

Skipper Ben Johnston continues to defy the odds, having one of his best seasons to date on the wing, in the top-three try scorers for the season.  

Will Morrison; an English lock, is the heartbeat of the Royals side, working tirelessly around the park.  

Pedro Rolando, the reigning MacDouglall Medal for Player of the Year, has a magic right-boot and has been the key figure for Royals in their run over the last five seasons. 

The side also features several Brumbies players in their ranks including Andy Muirhead, Connal McInerney, Bayley Kuenzle, Tom Cusack and academy backrow Rory Scott.  

Debutants

The majority of the side are veteran players who have either competed in a Grand Final or moved up from second grade.

However there were still a couple of fresh faces including Brendan Le Galludec; a French lock who came to Australia via college Rugby in America and Will Burden; an English import who has provided plenty for the Royals attack from fullback.  

Gungahlin Eagles

History

Based in North Canberra, the Gungahlin Eagles were founded in 1967 as the Daramalan Rugby Club and later changed their name in the late ’90s to better suit the geographical location and to prove it wasn’t just a club for Daramalan College students.  

Daramalan won their first championship in 1984.

The club’s lone premiership as the Gungahlin Eagles came in 2003 and also competed in the Grand Final three out of the following four years.  

Gungahlin haven’t made a Grand Final since 2007, but remain a strong club across the grades, winning the Club Championship this 2020 season as well as booking their spot in the big dance.  

Season overview

This season the Eagles have claimed five wins and five losses.  

Eagles were tipped as favourites preseason but stumbled early and looked to be out of the running until Matt Giteau joined.

His presence boosted their whole team. 

Major changes

The biggest change to Gungahlin in 2020 was the addition of Wallabies great Matt Giteau.

His presence has lifted their game to a whole new level. 

Key players

There’s a bunch of standout players from this season including James Dargaville who’s a former Brumby and shown outstanding leadership.

Tom Haddad who’s an expert under the high ball and a deadly finisher.

Jake Helgesen; a tireless worker and a cultural leader.

Matt Hawke; veteran player who has had his best season in a long time.

Jamie Kotz; lightning fast winger and from the Brumbies we’ve seen Tom Ross, Issak Fines and Mack Hansen.

Debutants

Three new faces hit the field this season including lock Callum MacDonald from Brumbies Academy, Joey Caputo and winger Tom Haddad who’s another Brumbies Academy addition.