The Woden Valley Rams will return to the training paddock this week as they set their sights on back-to-back Canberra Raiders Cup Under 18’s premiership victories.
A Man of the Match performance from Rams enforcer Ron Leapai helped his side to a 24-14 win over West Belconnen in the Grand Final earlier this year.
Coach Jason Evans said the stunning come-from-behind win in the 2015 decider capped off a memorable season for a blue and gold outfit that had been building for quite some time.
“Generally winning a premiership, you think it’s just a twelve-month process – that you work hard for just twelve months – but this was three years in the making,” said Evans.
“A strong nucleus of this side have been together early in the juniors, around Under 7s, 8s, and 9s. It was their first premiership – it was huge.”
Evans labelled the 24-14 win over West Belconnen “a relief”, a sentiment echoed by the side’s co-captain Jackson McDonald.
The competition’s leading point scorer, McDonald had a burning desire to lift the premiership trophy on Grand Final day, and to finally do so was the icing on the cake.
“It was something we’d spoken about early in the year. We set a goal, and to reach our goal was a feeling I’ll never forget,” said the energetic five-eighth.
Woden were forced to play catch-up football in the early going as West Belconnen crossed in the first minute, before extending their lead to 10-0 midway through the half.
Evans had faith that his side would start to string some consistency together, after acknowledging that an early deficit may be on the cards.
“We spoke about how tough we had to be, and we knew that they were going to get a jump on us – they have done all year. [We knew] that we’ve just got to be focused on getting in to our rhythm, and not let the scoreboard dictate the way we play or the way we think.”
A late first half try to Ron Leapai brought Woden to within four points at the halftime break, which saw the Rams kick in to gear.
“He was outstanding for us. [He] just really dictated that middle ground,” said Evans.
“He needs about three to five carries before he gets into his rhythm, and when he started getting in to that, and getting a try early too, all of a sudden the way he was running with purpose and intent.”
“I think everyone grew an extra foot just around him when he started moving, started pushing through the line and things like that.”
Evans acknowledged that his side had a mental barrier to overcome against their opponents, with his troops lacking belief on the big stage.
“As soon as we got that belief, that was the biggest trigger for us. As soon as we weren’t worrying about Westies anymore, and we knew that if we just hold on to this ball, points were going to come.”
And come they did, as Woden scored three tries to one in the second half to clinch the premiership trophy in thrilling fashion.
The Rams will embark on their premiership defence in 2016 with a squad spearheaded by returning players Sam Burge, Luke Hicks, and Stephen Henderson.
Rams Pre-Season training begins on December 1st at North Curtin Oval at 6pm.
ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR THE WODEN VALLEY RAMS