Club Corner: Tassie set for blockbuster Grand Finals

by TAS Rugby

Tasmania is set for a showdown this Saturday with two big Grand Finals kicking off at opposite ends of the state.

The Second Division kicks off first at Launceston Rugby Club from 2:00pm AEDT and the Premiership Division kicks off an hour later at Rugby Park in Hobart from 3:00pm AEDT. 

Let's take a look back at each clubs' history and what's led them to this historic moment. 

Premiership Division

Devonport Bulls  

The Bulls team is almost unchanged from the 2019 Grand Final team. 

It is the club's fifth Grand Final appearance over the last 10 years.

This year saw the Devonport Bulls debut three players – 16-year-old Ash Lowry, Adam Clifford and Isaac Berkuta.

The Bulls have had a strong undefeated season and booked themselves an early spot in the Grand Final.

Players to watch this weekend will be Mark Meo, Ilsoni Tavailagi, Reuben Heagney and Oliver Crawford who have been standout performers week in week out.

Taroona Penguins

Taroona have achieved a record five wins this season which is a solid upwards trajectory for the club.

In 2020 the side welcomed three debutants - Noah Kazarine, Callum Blowfield and Hugo Blomfield who have helped raise the bar to a new level along with experienced coaches Chip Le Grange and Rhys Watts.

In terms of best performers, Rhys Watts has been a consistently steadying presence at No 8 when things have got a bit shaky.

Sam Lowe continues to grow in to his role as Captain and is the only squad member to have played every game.

Oscar Gilding also returned from playing with the U19 Rebels has brought a new spark to the game.

Lastly Noah Kazarine was thrust into the number 10 role has proven outstanding under pressure with a very bright future.

Reserves Championship Division

Launceston Tigers

The Launceston Tigers were established in 1999 following a merger between the Riverview and Glen Dhu Rugby Clubs.

The following two decades saw major highs and lows – several Premierships and even closed club doors for some time.

However a resurgence came thanks to Coach Ray Burgess who led the team into the 2019 and now 2020 Grand Final.

2020 has seen the teams’ application at training lead to great results on the field with 25 plus players regularly attending training.

Burgess believes the contests for positions has created a great atmosphere within the team and putting them on the right track into finals.

To date the Tigers have gone undefeated this season with nine wins.

Standouts players include Harrison Johnson, Iese Alatimu and John Dunbar.

Burnie Emus

Burnie Rugby Club was formed in 1961 and the name ‘Emus’ refers to Emu Bay, the original name for Burnie.

The club went into recess in 1988 due to lack of players before reforming in 1997.

The clubs’ most recent titles were the Northern Premiership in 2003 and the state-wide second division in 2008.

The club hasn't played in a Grand Final since 2008, making it a very special occasion for the majority of players. 

The club has been in a rebuilding stage in recent years and are seeing a shift from perennial underdog to a genuine contender.

Brett Bentley coming on as Coach has been a fantastic boost for the club. This has seen an overall increase in player numbers at training and on game day and the return of several club legends in Emus colours.

Two years ago Burnie had more forfeits than actual games and have always battled to get 15 on the park.

This year the team have had at least 15 every game, usually with several subs and have won in Hobart for the first time in more than five years. 

This season the side has won six matches and lost three and are still yet to beat major rivals Launceston…however a Grand Final can change that. 

Burnie has had five players make their club debuts this year. Notable debutants are fullback Gareth Jubb and winger Hamish Jamieson who are both playing their first ever season of rugby. 

Michael Grace has been a standout in his first season back for Burnie. Other notable players include Brendan Griffiths, Brad Van der Drift, Alif Suhirman and Brett Bentley.