All conquering Nelson Bay Gropers bring home Hunter Suburban Rugby Presidents Cup championship title

Nelson Bay Rugby Club President Gavin Rocher celebrates the Gropers’ Hunter Suburban Presidents Cup championship title with talented number eight Isaac Laracy (left) and breakaway Samuel Rocher.

MAORI rugby whiz Ilisoni Vonomatairatu has left his mark on the Port Stephens sporting landscape.

The dynamic five eighth was best on ground as the all conquering Nelson Bay Gropers lifted the Hunter Suburban Rugby Presidents Cup trophy last weekend at the Newcastle No 2 Sports Ground.

In an absorbing tussle, the Gropers staved off a spirited challenge from the Singleton Bulls Red team to record a 15-10 Grand Final triumph and bring home their first Presidents Cup title since 1999.

The gifted 21-year-old Ilisoni engineered the deserved premiership for the mighty Nelson Bay outfit with his silky attacking skills and vision a feature of the Gropers’ successful campaign.

He finished the competition’s top try scorer and points scorer in his debut season with the club and was regarded the most valuable player in Hunter Suburban Rugby.

For leading coach Michael Wiringi and his talented charges the Grand Final victory capped a memorable 2023 season for the Nelson Bay club that preserved its unbeaten status.

Club President Gavin Rocher told News Of The Area that the Presidents Cup title was the result of the team’s “tremendous work ethic, natural ability and enterprising play”.

“The squad was a blend of youth and experience and they clicked as a unit to dominate this year’s competition,” he reflected.

“Ilisoni proved to be a valuable acquisition as the side’s playmaker and he sparked the side each week with his flair and range of skills,” Rocher added.

The mercurial number ten booted a fifth minute penalty goal to give Nelson Bay a 3-0 lead before Singleton half back Campbell Harris levelled the scores with his own three pointer after seventeen minutes.

A try soon after by utility back Joshua Sollitt gave Nelson Bay a five point lead at the interval before gun centre Michael Hotene crossed early in the second half with Ilisoni converting for a 15-3 advantage.

The Bulls defended stoutly to stay in the hunt and were finally rewarded with a converted Harris try after the full time bell.

Nelson Bay’s undefeated Presidents Cup championship-winning squad featured Will Dunn, Kailen Williams, Michael Hotene, Rhys Cutbush, Scott Triston, Ilisoni Vonomatairatu, Daniel Murphy, Isaac Laracy, Ryan Marshall, Samuel Rocher, John Lundie, Zion Takarua, Tom Hickey, Nathan McLeay; Nathan Perry, Daniel Arnfield, Tyler Blue, Liam Keating, Michael Wiringi, Lucas McCleer, Ross Buchan, Joshua Sollitt and Kade Redmond.

Meanwhile, the Pokolbin Reds clinched the Patrons Shield title after a gripping 21-19 victory over Singleton Bulls Black.

Crack centres Jackson Crebert and Daniel Thomas and breakaway Jordan Kelly scored tries with Shane Doyle booting three goals as the Reds jumped to a 21-5 lead before the Bulls staged a revival.

Nelson Bay will be chasing a club premiership double this Saturday when they lock horns with Maitland Blacks in the Under 18s Grand Final at Marcellin Park.

By Chris KARAS

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