TWO of Moree’s long-time servants and best players commemorated milestones in Saturday’s Central North Zone Tier One minor semi-final.
Fullback Heath Riggs became only the second Bull – behind Dave Onus – to chalk up 200 games for the club, while number eight Matt Wannan played his 100th.
Both had big games on their big day, with Riggs kicking 15 points and Wannan scoring the try that really turned the match for the Bulls.
It extended their lead to 16 points early in the second half after they’d been up by just two at half-time and really struggled to shake Gunnedah off.
Wannan had no idea he was joining the 100 club.
“Neither Heath nor I had any idea this would be our milestone,” he said.
Not until coach Damien Kelly rang them up on Friday and told them.
As Wannan explained, he told him he had some good news and some bad news.
The good news was Saturday was going to be his 100th game, the bad news was he had to share it with Riggs.
The latter has made a bit of a habit out of racking up milestones in the big games.
He brought up 150 in the preliminary final three years ago.
Both will have at least another game to add to their tally after the Bulls beat the Red Devils 36-24 to set up a preliminary final against either Narrabri or Pirates.
Wannan started with the Bulls as a junior and was part of the premiership-winning U17s side in 2003.
Four years later he had become an integral member of the first grade pack.
He then headed north for four years for uni before returning to the Bulls in 2011.
“It’s been a great club. I’ve enjoyed it all thoroughly,” he said.
“Hopefully we can come home strong.”
Saturday was “a bit scrappy”, he said, although there were some brilliant moments.
They didn’t spend a lot of time in Gunnedah’s half though.
“In saying that, whenever we got down there we seemed to score points,” Wannan said.
Their support play really drove that and was one of the things that got them over the line.
“Our defence for one thing, but it still needs work, and then the ability to keep the ball moving around,” he said.
Kelly echoed similar thoughts.
“I thought our defence was excellent,” he said.
“The amount of ball they had and ran at us, something was going to crack and it did.”
But he couldn’t really be too disappointed about that.
The Bulls’ plan was to move the ball and, by extension of that, the Red Devils’ forwards around, and they did that well – when they had the ball.
“Our attack was brilliant, what ball we had,” Kelly said.
The support play for him was one of the most pleasing aspects.
“In Two or three of our tries, guys made a break and got in behind and someone was there,” he said.
That desire and urgency has been missing at times.
Captain Ben Colley led from the front.
Not only was he everywhere as usual but a real handful in attack.
He had three or four strong runs where he weaved his way around the defence.
The game did finish on a sour note for the Bulls, with replacement second-rower Nick Gelling red-carded for a shoulder charge on Josh Howarth, and likely to miss the final.