11 Dec Griffin Legal John I Dent Cup 2018 Season Review: Royals
SEASON RANK: 2nd
Head Coach: WAYNE SOUTHWELL
Captain: BEN JOHNSTON
Home Ground: PHILLIP OVAL
It’s hard to label a team that nearly won back-to-back titles season a disappointment but that’s just what it was. Prisoners of an undefeated season in the previous year, anything less than a repeat was always going to be slightly tough to take for the Blue-Baggers.
Victims of their own success, it’s a problem many Champions must face, but for Royals it hit them in a unique way. Usually it’s complacency, as famous NBA Coach Pat Riley once described it, “the “disease of me.” Royals were affected because some of their core group were just too good.
Tom Cusack was co-winner of the McDougall Medal in 2017 and the driving force of their dominance. He never donned his beloved Royals jersey in 2018 because he was required for the Brumbies. Andy Muirhead, Lausii Taliauli and Faalelei Sione were all missing for Super Rugby duties at various points of the season as well.
Royals coach Wayne Southwell warned before the season that things might be a bit harder for his side, and they were. Royals version of struggling is most teams idea of success. Defending their crown with pride, Royals still showed their greatness, and ramped things up when finals loomed. When they dispatched Vikings in the Major Semi-Final, it looked like they had peaked just at the opportune moment.
Three minutes in to the rematch things looked to be going to plan. Pedro Rolando, as he always does, put the Royals ahead with his surgical right-boot. Then, and only Royals know why, the Royals juggernaut came crashing to a halt. Vikings were excellent, but Royals were poor, and Tuggeranong shot out to a big lead and Royals just couldn’t recover.
They tried, and had they played the way they did in the final quarter in the rest of the game, things almost certainly would have been different. The credit must go to the Vikings, as does the title, but Royals may feel they left one behind in 2018. They’ll have plenty of motivation in 2019, the rest of the competition best get prepared for the Blue-Baggers.
Royals couldn’t go back to back in 2018, losing out in the Grand-Final to the Vikings, but the performance they put in to reach the deciding game was mesmeric.
Having struggled to recreate their dominance from the previous season, but in the Major Semi-Final, they were at their best. Winning with clinical brutality, Royals ran in a slew of magical tries, not least Ben Johnston’s viral effort where Sam Carter three him the second-row offload of the century. The Grand-Final loss was heartbreaking, but Royals can look to this game for inspiration in 2019.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Luke Kimber was simply sensational in 2018. The Royals backrow, perhaps keen to clear them memory of missing out on the 2017 Grand-Final, came out firing last season, his ball carrying and ridiculous work-rate distinguishing him from others in what was a stacked Royals squad.
Kimber was crucial in Royals run to the Grand-Final, particularly when it counted in the playoffs. He ruled the roost in the Major Semi-Final, alongside backrow partner Will Morrison and when Royals were struggling for inspiration in the GF, it was Kimber who put his hand up, scoring the try that got Royals back in the game. Kimber swapped blue for red and black this offseason, one of a few club players to be selected for the Canberra Vikings NRC squad and didn’t look a step out of place at that level.
TOP TRY SCORERS
8 – Seth GOING, Sione LOLOHEA
5 – Faalelei SIONE
4 – Mike FAKAVA, Pedro ROLANDO
3 – Ben JOHNSTON, Luke KIMBER, Andy MUIRHEAD, Lausii TALIAULI
2 -Liam SLATER, Lincoln SMITH
1 – Matt COLE, Angus LE LIEVRE, Sione MAU, Ritchie MARIOTA, Will MORRISON, Dean PARAGALLI, Josh PENDERS, Sam ULUVALU
TOP POINTS SCORERS
181 – Pedro ROLANDO
40 – Sione LOLOHEA, Seth GOING
25 – Faalelei SIONE
20 – Mike FAKAVA
15 – Ben JOHNSTON, Luke KIMBER, Andy MUIRHEAD, Lausii TALIAULI
10 – Liam SLATER, Lincoln SMITH
5 – Matt COLE, Angus LE LIEVRE, Sione MAU, Ritchie MARIOTA, Will MORRISON, Dean PARAGALLI, Josh PENDERS, Sam ULUVALU
R1: Vikings (a) W 32-21
R3: Eagles (h) W 38-5
R4: Easts (a) L 23-25
R5: Wests (h) W 38-19
R6: Owls (h) W 26-24
R7: Whites (a) W 28-20
R8: Vikings (a) L 21-34
R10: Wests (h) W 43-0
R11: Eagles (a) L 12-20
R13: Easts (h) W 33-7
R14: Vikings (h) W 19-15
R15: Owls (a) L 25-26
R16: Whites (h) W 28-24
R17: Wests (a) W 38-22
QSF: Vikings (n) W 26-20
GF: Vikings (n)