ACT Brumbies winger Robbie Coleman looms as the Queanbeyan Whites’ secret weapon as they aim to end Tuggeranong’s three-year stranglehold on the John I Dent Cup.
Coleman will be injected into the Whites’ starting line-up for the grand final clash against the Vikings on Saturday, cutting short his holiday after the Super Rugby season to join his junior club’s premiership quest.
The Vikings have won three consecutive titles and are aiming to become the first club to win four in a row in more than 20 years.
But Coleman could be the key to their demise. The speedster teamed up with Wallabies scrum-half Nic White to help Queanbeyan beat Tuggeranong 30-28 in the 2010 grand final.
“It’s fantastic to have Robbie, he’s a local junior and he wanted to play,” Whites coach Adam Fahey said.
“He’s only played one game for us this year because he was in the Brumbies … we’ll take him with both hands.”
The Vikings have been the most dominant team in the competition for more than three years, losing only a handful of games as they romped to three titles.
But Queanbeyan shocked the defending champions in the major semi-final, securing a tense 33-32 win two weeks ago to advance to the grand final.
It was just the second time in two years the Whites had toppled the Vikings and they have just two players – Coleman and captain Dan Penca – with grand final experience.
The Vikings have 11 players who have won premierships.
“We haven’t spoken about [winning four in a row],” Vikings coach Brad Harris said.
“The playing group has changed, our focus is just on a performance that’s hopefully good enough to reward this year’s playing group.
“We’re a club all the others like to hunt and chase down, the fact we’re going for four in a row does put a target on ourselves. But we’ve got high expectations.”
Players will also have a chance to impress Canberra’s National Rugby Championship coach Dan McKellar with strong performances in the grand final.
The NRC starts on August 23 and club form will influence McKellar’s selection decisions.
Queanbeyan skipper Penca has opted to go on an overseas trip to Canada instead of chasing a spot in the NRC, but the flanker said he would postpone his holiday if he had the chance to play.
“I’ve been planning the trip for a while … I didn’t get the chance to play NRC though,” Penca said.
“I would probably postpone it, but it didn’t eventuate so I’m sticking to my original plan.”
Queanbeyan has one of the youngest rosters in the Canberra club competition, including Australian under-20s prop Neori Nadruku and Australian Schoolboys centre Keith Morgan.
JOHN I DENT CUP GRAND FINAL
Saturday: Tuggeranong Vikings v Queanbeyan Whites at Viking Park, 3.15pm. Lower grade games from 9.45am.
Tuggeranong: 1. Sione Taula, 2. Michael Henry, 3. JP Pradaud, 4. Gareth Clouston, 5. James Foster, 6. Michael Oakman-Hunt, 7. Rowan Perry, 8. Jarrad Butler, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Isaac Thompson, 11. JP Mynhardt, 12. Jake Rakic, 13. Nigel Ah Wong, 14. Jerome Niumata, 15. Brendon Taueki.
Queanbeyan: 1. Neori Nadruki, 2. Tom Dustan, 3. Les Makin, 4. Toby Wilson, 5. Tony Tarlington, 6. Cameron Stanley, 7. Dan Penca, 8. Tom Darmody, 9. Josh White, 10. Billy Chalker, 11. Robbie Coleman, 12. Keith Morgan, 13. Altus Momsen, 14. HP Momsen, 15. Brendon Spears.
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