By Lance Jenkinson
Let the debate begin, are the Werribee Bears the team of the decade in the NRL Victoria first grade?
The Bears have achieved what no other club has done in this era by taking out a rare premiership three-peat.
It is only the third time in top-flight history that a side has strung three premierships together.
Sunbury has managed three premierships this decade, but not in the form of a three-peat.
The 1990s had a three-peat side in the Waverley-Oakleigh Panthers from 1992-94, while the 2000s had the all-conquering Altona Roosters who won an unsurpassed four titles in a row from 2003-06, as part of a dynasty of seven premierships in 10 seasons.
The Bears completed the hat-trick with a gutsy 12-8 grand final win over Sunbury Tigers at Haines Reserve on Saturday.
Bears coach Josh Makiri was on cloud nine after the game.
“I’m kind of speechless,” he said. “The feeling is unreal.
“I’m happy for the boys because they’re the ones who really deserve it.”
We might have to wait until after the 2019 season to settle the debate over which team takes out team of the decade status. What is undisputed is that Werribee is the club of 2018.
The Bears won the first grade men’s and first grade women’s premierships – on home soil.
It was the first time Haines Reserve has hosted an NRL Victoria grand final day and it was a good one for the hosts.
The day began well with the Bears trumping local rivals Truganina Rabbitohs 14-12 in the women’s first grade decider.
The icing on the cake was the men’s side showing guts and determination to beat Sunbury.
There was little to separate Werribee and Sunbury with the exception of one important ingredient.
“Our boys had more determination,” Makiri said. “It came down to who wanted it more.”
Werribee started fast, scoring the opening try through Radeem Saleupolu after three minutes.
The Bears charged out to a 10-0 lead when Kuros Metuariki converted the goal from his own try. All that was good for Werribee came on the back of strong play from Sepu Ryder, the game’s MVP.
“He’s just went forward all day and he tackled all day,” Makiri said. “He produced 80 minutes of strong football.”
Ten down was not a knockout blow for Sunbury. The Tigers got a late try through Ieremia Ieremia to trim the deficit back to six at half-time.
Metuariki extended Werribee’s lead to 12-4 with a penalty goal midway through the second half before Samisoni Fusi crossed over for Sunbury to cut the lead to four.
It was in the final 10 minutes that proved Werribee to be worthy champions. The Bears defensive line was being pushed and prodded in repeat sets, but they kept the Tigers at bay.
“It was by far the best defence we’ve produced all year,” Makiri said.