Canberra Royals finished 2019 at the top of the heap, finishing the season as Champions after besting Tuggeranong Vikings in the Grand-Final.
Canberra RoyalsSEASON RANK: 2nd (Grand Final Winners)
Head Coach: WAYNE SOUTHWELL
Captain: BEN JOHNSTON
Home Ground: PHILLIP OVAL
March30 Queanbeyan Whites (a) W 23-10
6 Bye13 Easts Rugby (a) W 31-10
27 Western District Lions (a) W 29-27
May4 Uni-Norths Owls (h) W 33-25
18 Queanbeyan Whites (h) W 47-24
25 Easts Rugby (h) W 75-15
June1 Gungahlin Eagles (a) W 37-32
8 Tuggeranong Vikings (h) L 17-5415 Western District Lions (h) W 54-1422 Uni-Norths Owls (h) W 40-2129 Bye
6 Queanbeyan Whites (a) W 23-1413 Easts Rugby (a) W 71-1420 Gungahlin Eagles (h) W 25-2227 Tuggeranong Vikings (a) L 17-22
3 Tuggeranong Vikings (QF) W 21-13
17 Tuggeranong Vikings (GF) W 32-21
230 – Pedro ROLANDO
50 – Seth GOING, Rory SCOTT
45 – Lincoln SMITH
25 – Ben JOHNSTON, Liam SHAW, Jason SWAIN
22 – Jamie BODMAN
20 – Nicholas JERVIS-HAMILTON, Andy MUIRHEAD, Siuta TAI
10 – Sione MAU, Craig MCMAHON
5 – Jack FARRELL, Douglas LANCASTER, Connal MCINERNERY, Joel PENDERS, Brady SPACKMAN, Samuel VON BLANCKENSEE
2 – Harry QUINLAN
Top Try Scorers
10 – Seth GOING, Rory SCOTT
9 – Pedro ROLANDO, Lincoln SMITH
5 – Ben JOHNSTON, Liam SHAW, Jason SWAIN
4 – Jamie BODMAN, Nicholas JERVIS-HAMILTON, Andy MUIRHEAD, Siuta TAI
2 – Sione MAU, Craig MCMAHON
1 – Jack FARRELL, Douglas LANCASTER, Connal MCINERNERY, Joel PENDERS, Brady SPACKMAN, Samuel VON BLANCKENSEE
Player of the Year
The Royals maestro had one of his best seasons to date in 2019, taking home the MacDougall Medal as the competition’s best and fairest while also topping the scorers list, by some margin as well. In some ways, Rolando didn’t do anything that he doesn’t normally, a few more tries in the bank notwithstanding. The Argentinian native brought his usual metronome right boot, kicking goals for fun and was a consistent calming presence to the young guys around him. Perhaps therein lies the special sauce to this year’s campaign from Rolando. Despite the overhaul of the squad, and having to play with different combinations, Rolando’s performance never wavered. The best player in the competition from start to finish.
You can’t look past their nineteenth Grand Final win for the season highlight for the Canberra Royals as Wayne Southwell and his team won a thriller at Viking Park against the Vikings. It was a fitting conclusion to the season for the Royals who had to overcome a mid-season hammering by the same opponents to rediscover their verve on the big day. Not that they had it all their won way on Grand Final day as the Vikings proved fitting opposition. In they end though a brace of tries from Man of the Match Jason Swain, added to by scores from club legend Ben Johnston and Andrew Muirhead helped them over the line.
Before the season, a lot of people said Royals relied too heavily on a couple of star players, and that without them, they may struggle. You can see their argument. Two years ago, when Royals went unbeaten to win the John I Dent Cup, they were spurred on by the likes of Tom Cusack, Tom Staniforth, Sam Carter, Faalelei Sione, Lausii Taliauli and Andy Muirhead. Last season, they lost Staniforth to Sydney and didn’t see much of Cusack and Carter, the latter only playing the Grand-Final and generally the success of 2017 meaning Muirhead and Taliauli in particular were involved more with the Brumbies. This year, there was no Cusack again and Royals saw little or none of their Brumbies talent. Yet, with the Blue Bagger machine running off some new fuel, youth, they lost just two games all season long, and left Viking Park on Grand-Final Day, with a third Premiership in five years.
Royals have a culture, and identity and you could see that in how they played, personified of course, by their Captain Ben Johnston and star halfback Pedro Rolando. You add in the foot soldiers, the Bodmans, Swains, Goings of the world, those types and you start to see success forming. What the competition didn’t see was the wave of young talent coming through. Rory Scott was revelation this season. His days in the John I Dent Cup may already be numbered with higher honours not too far over the horizon. The return of Siuta Tai to Royals, another key addition. Sam Von Blanckensee and Jack Farrell, great additions and Lincoln Smith a year older and more experienced. That core brought the cup home on August 17. It was a typical Royals performance, physical and brave. Ruthless as well. When Andrew Robinson saw yellow, Royals targeted his zone immediately and Jason Swain found the perfect gap to get Royals going. Then, they did it again and Andy Muirhead broke out from his own 22 and scampered away finding Johnston who sent the crowd wild. That set the tone, and from there Royals built and built and were deserved winners in the end.