Nelson Bay Gropers teach students the art of victory to retain Ben Clarke Shield

Emerson ‘Baby John’ Burgess crosses to seal victory for the Gropers. Photo courtesy of Gropers Facebook.
Emerson ‘Baby John’ Burgess crosses to seal victory for the Gropers. Photo courtesy of Gropers Facebook.


THE Ben Clarke Memorial Shield has been retained by the Nelson Bay Gropers against University on a day that saw the local community come together to celebrate Ben’s life, his contribution to the club and rugby on the peninsula.

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The Gropers handed the students a 31 to 12 defeat in front of a packed Groperdome that witnessed some dazzling passages of play in trying conditions.

John ‘Stinker’ Clarke, Ben’s father and founding member of the club along with wife Ella, said the day was about the display of some fantastic rugby and sharing memories with friends new and old.

“Today is in memory of our son Ben who was a very keen committeeman, he loved rugby and all those who played the game,” said Mr Clarke.

“This is the 15th year of the shield and we are just so proud to share the day with the Gropers and Uni.”

The match saw the Gropers troubling Uni early in the forwards but it was Michael Hotene at outside centre that drew first blood courtesy of some slick footwork by Chad Northcott.

Northcott added the extras and the Gropers went out to a lead 7 to 0.

The Gropers scored another two tries with Northcott having a hand in both to take the score to 19 to 0 at the break.

The second half saw much of the same with prop Cameron Rowse displaying some wizardry to juggle and regain a slippery ball to cross the chalk.

Northcott again slotted the extras to make it 26 to 0 with Uni looking just about ready to towel off and grab the talcum powder.

Uni’s respite was around the corner when the students managed to crack the Groper’s line and added the extras to make it 26 to 7.

The Gropers came home with a wet sail as Emerson ‘Baby John’ Burgess crossed on the back of some lightning backs play to make it 31 to 7.

Uni grabbed a consolation try in the dying moments but the damage was done.

The final score 31 to 12 as the teams and the community came together in the post-match engagement to celebrate Ben’s life.

The Gropers play Merewether Carlton at Townson Oval this Saturday.

Kick-off from 12pm.


By Mitch LEES

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