There was to be no fairytale after all for the East Campbelltown Eagles, who were looking to defend the title they won last year.
But back to back premierships are almost as rare as hen’s teeth, whether it’s the NRL or the Sydney Shield.
The boys from Campbelltown fell just one game short of making the big dance in 2019 after losing to Cabramatta in Saturday’s qualifying final played at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah.
However they went down fighting and both their coach, Richard Barnes, and Eagles president Daniel Draper were effusive in their praise of the first grade squad.
“I’m very proud of all our guys,’’ said Barnes after the 42-16 defeat.
“It’s a huge season with 24 games and the guys have shown commitment and dedication to me, the club and the area,’’ he said.
“And while it’s very disappointing that we couldn’t do stats on the Cabramatta team with so many changes on who they actually played, nevertheless we didn’t play our best game on the day.’’
Mr Draper said: “these players are all representing the Campbelltown area, each week they are giving their best and to finish third in such a high level competition is a credit to the players and coaching staff.
“This year wasn’t our year but the guys have had a tremendous season and I will like to thank all the supporters and sponsors that supported this team week in week out in 2019,’’ he said.
Cabramatta had six players returning from Ron Massey Cup duties when the team ran out on the field at Jubilee Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Undeterred, the Eagles started strongly and were first to score when Theo Leato crossed for a four pointer for a 4-0 lead at the 13th minute mark.
Cabramatta responded with a converted try to take the lead 6-4 at the 20th minute.
Just when it looked like East Campbelltown were getting on top, a try to Shannon Gallant was disallowed and the Eagles supporters were scratching their heads in disbelief.
The Eagles then lost possession while in attack – again – and Cabramatta capitalised with 95 metre try, extending their lead to 12-4.
Cabramatta ran in a third four pointer just before the break to go into the sheds with a commanding 18-4 lead.
Two second half tries from Cabramatta were matched by the Eagles through Grant Lahey and Eddie Vatuvei.
But that was close as the Eagles got as Cabramatta finished the stronger to add two more converted tries and book their place in the 2019 grand final.