Congratulations to #3 Sami Sauiluma, who this Friday will take the field for his 100th game of Intrust Super Cup. The Bears are proud to see Sami reach this milestone and look forward to seeing what the future holds for his Rugby league career.
Jorja BrinumsQRL lead content producer
A love for the game, a love for Burleigh Bears and a love for players he coaches is what drives Bears coach Rick Stone to continue doing what he does best.
Stone coached his 220th Intrust Super Cup game in Round 10, passing the previous record held by former Ipswich Jets coaches Ben and Shane Walker.
Burleigh Bears CEO Damian Driscoll said the Bears flew Stone’s family up from Newcastle for the occasion to help celebrate the milestone.
Prior to the Bears’ clash with Redcliffe Dolphins, Stone had 151 wins, eight draws and 60 losses for a 70.8 per cent success record – the best record of the 31 who have coached 75 or more games.
Stone said the milestone “just means I’ve been around for a while”, adding he was more focused on the game against the Dolphins.
“You can look back at milestones when you finish your career, but right now, our job is to win some footy games,” Stone said.
“We went to Redcliffe on a tough, competitive day and didn’t quite get the result.”
Stone led the Bears for more than 200 games between 1997 and 2005, winning premierships in 1999 and 2004 before taking up an assistant coach position at the Newcastle Knights.
He went on to become head coach of the Knights as well as the Fiji national team, before heading to the English Super League to coach Huddersfield in 2016. In 2019 he coached the Sydney Roosters NRLW team before agreeing to return to the Bears.
Driscoll said Stone laid the foundations for much of the success the Bears had experienced during the past five years.
“The success that the Bears have had in the last five years… Rick laid the foundation for those successes back in 1997 when the club first entered Cup,” Driscoll said.
“He’s quite thorough with his preparation of his own team and the preparation of the opposition… he certainly covers every angle with his coaching approach.”
Stone said the milestone did give him some confidence he was doing things right.
“Most of the time, it means you can do your job pretty well, if you’ve got some longevity,” Stone said.
“Obviously there was a big break between 2005, when I last coached, and 2020 – when we only got one game in before COVID… but it’s good to be back at the Bears… it’s a really comfortable feeling,” Stone said.
“I’ve got a good group of players, a really supportive club and a really supportive network of people working in rugby league down here. They’ve been a competitive team in the last couple of years and we strive to continue to be a competitive team as we move forward.”
Stone said he had every confidence in the 2021 Cup squad to step up.
“We had a bit of a slow start… we’ve had a few injuries recently as well, but we’ve fought our way back, to get back in the competition,” Stone said.
“Hopefully we can get a few of our injured players back on the park in the next couple of weeks. Obviously the bye next week helps. We can see if we can push towards being competition contenders at the back end of the year.
“We need a little bit of fine tuning in all areas… a little bit in attack, a little bit in defence, a little bit in attitude, a little bit in preparation. Just continually sharpening the pencil and making sure the boys give themselves the best chance to play well and understand what’s coming, as far as the opposition is concerned, each week.”
Seeing players improve and excel is something Stone said kept him coming back, week-in, week-out.
“Just the satisfaction of seeing young people improve, reaching some goals and possibly taking a step forward… to being the next generation of players at a higher level,” Stone said.
“Getting to the NRL is probably a big step for a lot but we’ve seen plenty of examples during my time. Definitely with Jamal Fogarty recently. Obviously there’s still hope for plenty of players who are playing in Intrust Super Cup.
“There’s plenty in the current team… Pat Politoni, Kurtis Rowe, Luke Page, in the current team, have been mainstays in this particular group.
“If I look back a little earlier, blokes like Reggie Cressbrook, Adam Hayden, Grant Adamson, Brent McConnell, Ali Brown, Shane O’Flanagan, Ryan Gundry… all those sorts of blokes, they played over 100 games for the club and made significant contributions when I was here previously.”
Stone said his focus was now on “getting a few more wins”.
“I’m most interested in the wins and games at the moment, starting with PNG Hunters this weekend,” Stone said.
Queensland Rugby League competitions manager Dave Maiden said Stone had made a significant contribution to rugby league in Queensland, in particular the Cup competition.
“Rick has always represented himself at the highest level of professionalism. He’s calm, he’s knowledgeable and he’s provided wonderful guidance to our players, who have gone on to NRL level, and he’s been to the next level himself,” Maiden said.
“To have someone of his calibre in our competition for such a long, sustained period of time, is fantastic for us and we appreciate and acknowledge the work that he’s done… he’s had a phenomenal winning strike rate over a long period of time.
“He takes over from the Walker brothers who have contributed to our competition immensely as well. Rick is delivering consistent high-quality work that produces NRL-quality players.”
QRL MEDIA: COLLEEN EDWARDS
It was an absolute classic at Totally Workwear Stadium, with Burleigh Bears claiming a 24-20 win over Valleys Diehards to claim the first BHP Premiership title.
One of the most successful clubs in women’s rugby league in Queensland alongside Souths Logan Magpies; the Bears had made no secret of wanting to be the first name etched onto the BHP Premiership trophy; but the COVID-19 cancellation of the inaugural competition last season forced them to delay their plans by a year.
A committed and talented Valleys side – led outstandingly by captain Ali Brigginshaw in the grand final – stood in their way in 2021, with the minor premiership-winning Diehards putting in an almighty fight in the final in a high-speed and highly physical match.
“[I am] extremely proud of the girls … to finish off like that … we made it hard for ourselves, but what a win, what a grand final to play in,” Bears coach Tahnee Norris said following the match which produced some great individual plays to turn the match.
“The girls are used to that high-pressure stuff and being able to just turn it around and look after themselves and know that one of them is going to be able to produce something.”
Outside of some key tries, one of the match-turning plays was a one-on-one strip by Crystal Tamarua in the 66th minute when they were trailing 20-18 which gave the Bears the chance to keep attacking their opposition’s line, eventually resulting in the match-winning try to Tamika Upton.
The entire game was played at an intense level, with Valleys opening the scoring in just the second minute when Shenae Ciosiolka, playing centre for this match, kept her wits about her to scoop up a loose ball from an unclaimed kick to go over in the left-hand corner.
Upton hit back only moments later for the Bears – but then it seemed neither team was going to have the advantage at halftime following a relatively even first half.
However, the two teams still had points in them, with the Bears showing their experience to cross for two quick-fire tries just before the break, which was countered by a great try in the corner to Savannah Pratten in the final minute of the half to narrow Burleigh’s advantage to 14-8 at the break.
The Diehards came out firing after halftime, with Brigginshaw showing her class to get the first try of the second half, throwing dummy after dummy on her way to the line.
Valleys hit the lead again when Sarah Riorden powered her way over some Burleigh forwards soon after; but the Bears were never going to be out of the reckoning and they were able to turn the momentum back their way in the closing stages.
Following the match, Valleys coach Scott Prince said he was proud of his players, their effort and the season they had produced.
“I am very proud of the girls, the effort was amazing, just to turn up defensively, I think in the first half, Burleigh had a lot of possession and that started to swing in the second, we spoke about that at halftime,” Prince said.
“It’s never over against a quality side like Burleigh and we knew that we had to be clinical in the second half to get the win, but just a few moments, a one-on-one tackle with the strip, that was pretty much the tale of the tape and they scored and wrapped her up.
“The way we set out was we wanted to create an environment that girls want to play in at Valleys, and we certainly did that, we wanted to build a culture and a quality culture from the get-go, we certainly did that.
“Our goal was to play in a grand final and win it, and we just fell short, but it makes you more hungry next year.”
For the Bears, halfback Zahara Temara was a standout and claimed the Hastings Deering Player of the Match honours following a display that was full of defensive grit and great attacking play, with her kicking game helping to put Burleigh on the front foot.
The large and vocal crowd were left fully entertained and many will now look forward to seeing some of the grand final players in action on the Sunshine Coast for State of Origin on June 25.