Group 10 2010s grand finals: Sullivan guides CYMS to five premierships

Mick Sullivan, with the premiership trophy in one hand, is lifted by his jubilant teammates after the 2017 grand final win. He captain-coached Orange CYMS to five grand finals. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
Mick Sullivan, with the premiership trophy in one hand, is lifted by his jubilant teammates after the 2017 grand final win. He captain-coached Orange CYMS to five grand finals. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

The second decade of the 21st century belonged to one team - Orange CYMS.

After several near misses since their last premiership success in 1988, the green and golds hired former NRL playmaker Mick Sullivan to captain-coach the club.

It resulted in five premierships in eight seasons from 2010 to 2017, with CYMS missing just the one premiership decider, in 2014.

2010: Orange CYMS 23, Mudgee Dragons 16

Two decades of pain evaporated for Orange CYMS as the green and golds claimed an emotional Group 10 grand final win over the Mudgee Dragons.

CYMS held out a late charge from Mudgee to win 23-16 at Wade Park, the first premiership success for the Orange-based club since the 20-19 victory over Lithgow Workmen's Club.

CYMS were made to work for it. A gallant Dragons scored two tries in the space of two minutes to level the scores after the green and golds led 16-8 with 14 minutes to go.

The green and gold faithful, pictured in 2016, saw their team enjoy plenty of success in the 2010s.

The green and gold faithful, pictured in 2016, saw their team enjoy plenty of success in the 2010s.

Captain-coach Mick Sullivan, who was recruited to the club prior to the 2010 season kicking off, slotted home a field goal with four minutes remaining, before unlikely hero Josh Nixon scored the match-winner in the 78th minute.

Fittingly, Matt Williamson, the only remaining player from CYMS' last grand final appearance in 2002 - ironically, they lost to Mudgee - was awarded the man-of-the-match award.

CYMS' outstanding defensive effort in the first half saw them trail just 8-6 at the break, despite a mountain of possession for the Dragons, in front of about 2000 spectators.

ORANGE CYMS 23 (Ben McAlpine, Matt Williamson, Terawhiti Cooper, Josh Nixon tries; McAlpine 3 goals, Mick Sullivan field goal) defeated MUDGEE DRAGONS 16 (Terry Wood, Bubba Kennedy, Steve Lane, Cody Cafe tries)

2011: Orange CYMS 30, Lithgow Workmen's Club 12

Defence had been Orange CYMS' biggest concern all season, but in didn't matter in the 2011 decider as the green and golds proved just unbreakable, winning 30-12 at Endeavour Oval.

Man-of-the-match Pat Gibson in particular was inspirational, pulling off several vital tackles close to the line to land the first grand final win of his career, with no one wanting it more than him.

In a heated game, the Central Western Daily said CYMS didn't buy into the niggling tactics of Lithgow, who were lucky not to have players sin-binned on several occasions.

"Workies also refused to accept their runners-up medals and trophy after full-time," the match report said.

"The home side got off to an ideal start when Dom Maley pounced on an error from Reece Finlay in the seventh minute.

"But Lithgow hit back 10 minutes later when a 40/20 from Matt Rose gave them great field position. He then put Brendon Van Veen in untouched under the posts to give Workies a 6-4 lead.

"However, it was short lived and on the 23rd minute mark, a perfectly-weighted Michael Sullivan grubber in the left corner just beat the fingertips of Workies winger Brent Williams, with Kurt Beahan pouncing to put CYMS in front 8-6.

"As they have had a tendency to do all season, Workies' frustrations when behind got the better of them. High shots, niggle in the play-the-ball and backchat hampered their efforts, with Jono Van Veen in particular lucky not to be sin-binned for trying to start fights throughout the afternoon."

CYMS retained their composure and refused to buy into the Workies' tactics, striking two killer blows just before the break when nippy hooker Sam Hill scored in the 36th minute and Maley raced 50 metres for his second on the stroke of half-time for a 20-6 lead at the break.

A try from Van Veen wasn't enough to inspire a Lithgow fightback, with a second to Beahan and a try to Matt Rieck on full-time sealing a 30-12 win.

ORANGE CYMS 30 (Dom Maley 2, Kurt Beahan 2, Sam Hill, Matt Rieck tries; Kyran Bubb 3 goals) defeated LITHGOW WORKMEN'S CLUB 12 (Brendon Van Veen, Jono Van Veen; Jono Van Veen 2 goals)

Lithgow celebrate the premiership victory. Photo: @lithgowwolves

Lithgow celebrate the premiership victory. Photo: @lithgowwolves

2012: Lithgow Workmen's Club 40, Orange CYMS 14

It took a year to get the sour taste of defeat out of Lithgow mouths, but Workmen's Club got sweet revenge for their 2011 defeat by outclassing Orange CYMS 40-14 in the decider.

Playing in front of a huge crowd at the Tony Luchetti Sportsground, Workies started on fire and never relaxed to completely dominate the grand final.

Lithgow's forwards were in devastating form, hitting hard in defence, while the backs terrorised the CYMS defence with their guile and speed.

The player of the grand final was Lithgow five-eighth Taf Nicolas, who continued his superb form from the major semi with a five-star effort. His passing, kicking and defence was brilliant, overshadowing his CYMS counterparts.

Nicolas was presented the medal by Manly legend Cliff Lyons, who, being a five-eighth himself, would have been more than impressed with Nicolas' efforts.

Lithgow captain Jono Van Veen praised his coach Graeme Osborne and club treasurer Brian Morris.

"I can't say enough about these two fellows," he said. "The work they put in is enormous and we would not be here today without them. Along with Oz and Boris [Brian Morris] there is a great band of people who put the work in each week without looking for praise.

"They have been brilliant and I have nothing but praise for each and every one of them."

LITHGOW WORKMEN'S CLUB 40 (Taf Nicolas 2, Ben Hews, Aaron Christie-Johnson, Chris Rhodes, Brendon Van Veen, Scott Fittler tries; Nicolas 6 goals) defeated ORANGE CYMS 14 (Tim Bassman, Dom Malley, Larsen Marabe tries; Cody Robbins goal)

2013: Orange CYMS 22, Orange Hawks 14

In the only local derby grand final to date, CYMS held on to win one of the great Group 10 deciders against Orange rivals Hawks 22-14.

In front of a crowd in excess of 5000 people at a sun-drenched Wade Park, Ben McAlpine inspired CYMS to a 16-4 lead at the break.

That lead was extended to 22-4 six minutes after the halftime break thanks to a converted Sam Hill try.

Minor premiers Hawks fought back with tries to Justin Howarth and Joe Lasagavibau, reducing CYMS' lead to 22-14.

Hawks then enjoyed the momentum for the first time in the decider and shortly after Lasagavibau's try, CYMS captain-coach Mick Sullivan left the field with a hamstring injury.

Without their inspirational skipper, CYMS looked rudderless with the ball.

However, the green and golds managed to hold on through their defence, with a goal line try-saver from Hill on a flying Chris Anau in the 71st minute typifying CYMS' desire on their own line.

CYMS' win was the club's third premier league title since their drought-breaker in 2010. The last club to win three grand finals in four years was Lithgow Shamrocks, with titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985.

ORANGE CYMS 22 (Cody Robbins, Epa Navale, Ben McAlpine, Sam Hill tries; McAlpine 3 goals) defeated ORANGE HAWKS 14 (Justin Howarth 2, Joe Lasagavibau tries; Brock McGarity goal)

2014: Bathurst St Pat's 34, Cowra Magpies 12

Inspired by hooker Benji John, St Pat's claimed a comprehensive win in the 2014 decider, defeating hosts Cowra Magpies 34-12 at Sid Kallas Oval.

And while man-of-the-match John claimed a hat-trick, some resilient St Pat's defence and an increasingly frustrated Magpies side proved the right ingredients as the minor premiers spoiled Cowra's party.

Cowra's forwards may have looked more threatening through the opening half, but some Pat's line breaks and more creativity in attack got them to a 14-4 lead at half-time.

Pat's had the majority of the possession in the second half, as the home side's discipline started to dissipate. When Magpies five-eighth Jeremy Gordon was sent off for throwing a punch 10 minutes from full-time, the hosts' fighting spirit departed as well.

Stepping into the coaching role in 2014, Kurt Hancock's impact on the Bathurst club had been noticeable from the opening weeks of the competition.

"We prepared well this week and our goal was to just enjoy the day and you could see that in our footy," he said.

"They're a great bunch of fellas, they do whatever they're told - most of the time. We're really going to enjoy this one.

"Our outside backs were great, our halves were excellent. Garry Reilly's kicking boot was on. The plan worked really well - we had one and they stuck to it. They deserve it."

BATHURST ST PAT'S 34 (Benji John 3, Garry Reilly, Derryn Clayton, Luke Single tries; Reilly 5 goals) defeated COWRA MAGPIES 12 (Toby Nobes, Jay McClintlock, Tim Holman tries)

Orange CYMS prevailed 14-10 against Lithgow Workies in a classic Group 10 premier league grand final in 2015. Photo: STEVE GOSCH

Orange CYMS prevailed 14-10 against Lithgow Workies in a classic Group 10 premier league grand final in 2015. Photo: STEVE GOSCH

2015: Orange CYMS 14, Lithgow Workmen's Club 10

Orange CYMS claimed a history-defining fourth Group 10 title in six seasons as they triumphed 14-10 over a gallant Lithgow Workmen's Club at Wade Park.

But it was a match marred by six send-offs - Simon Osborne, Ben McAlpine and Scott Sullivan for CYMS and Corey Willmott, Pale Ale and Chris Rhodes for Workies.

They were all dismissed for a fight on full-time.

CYMS were put into an elite category with their win, with the only other team in Group 10 premiership history to claim more titles in a six-year period being the legendary Oberon outfit that earned 10 crowns in 11 years from 1961 to 1971.

"It was really satisfying," player-coach Mick Sullivan said, himself part of wins in 2010, 2011, 2013 and now 2015.

Sullivan was sublime in the victory, saving his best game of the 2015 season for the only real fixture that counts.

He scored the game's opener after 28 minutes, fortuitously regathering his own grubber kick after it copped a deflection off a Lithgow player's leg to dive over under the posts.

Then with the score locked at 6-all in the 51st minute after Brendon Van Veen scored Workies' first try - Wayde Egan's chip and chase in the lead-up was a special effort - Sullivan dummied, went straight through a gap and chipped ahead for a flying Tim Bassmann to score a classic grand final four-pointer.

Egan, who now plays for the Penrith Panthers, scored to tie things up again with 22 minutes remaining at 10-all, before Matt Rose left his mark on the contest.

With 12 minutes left to play and CYMS on the attack, Rose drifted right then drifted left before finding McAlpine, who then passed to a flying Bassmann who, in turn, popped a wonderful off-load to Sam Hill to score what was the game-clincher in the 2015 decider.

ORANGE CYMS 14 (Tim Bassman, Sam Hill, Mick Sullivan tries; Ben McAlpine goal) defeated LITHGOW WORKIES 10 (Wayde Egan, Brendon Van Veen tries; Jono Van Veen goal)

The 2016 Mudgee Dragons, like the 2000 Dragons, won the competition from fifth.

The 2016 Mudgee Dragons, like the 2000 Dragons, won the competition from fifth.

2016: Mudgee Dragons 14, Orange CYMS 10

Channelling their inner 2000 Mudgee Dragons, the 2016 Mudgee outfit became the first side to win the Group 10 title from fifth since the turn of the century.

With 22 seconds left on the clock and the scores locked at 10-10, Mudgee halfback Tim Condon chipped cross-field from near the halfway mark and found winger Nathan Orr, who drew CYMS winger Semisi Katoa before dishing off to Rota Setu about 35 metres out from the line.

Setu pinned his ears back, looking for the right corner, and although CYMS centre Jerome Harrison did bring him down five metres out, his momentum and the waterlogged Wade Park surface was enough to see him slide over and secure the Dragons the most remarkable of grand final wins.

Both the 2000 and 2016 Dragons, who both won the competition from fifth, were coached by Tony Pascoe.

"It doesn't really get any sweeter than that," Mudgee skipper Jared Robinson said.

"We spoke about it during the week that we were the last side in the competition to come from fifth and win it. It's lucky we had the momentum coming into it I think and it really paid off.

"I think it was our attitude that got us over the line. We got a bit of luck when it really mattered, but that kind of try is the stuff dreams are made of; it was incredible stuff."

MUDGEE DRAGONS 14 (Rota Setu, Sam Wooden tries; Wooden 3 goals) defeated ORANGE CYMS 10 (Ryan Griffin try; Ben McAlpine 3 goals)

A jubilant Orange CYMS team celebrate their incredible comeback against the Oberon Tigers in 2017. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

A jubilant Orange CYMS team celebrate their incredible comeback against the Oberon Tigers in 2017. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

2017: Orange CYMS 23, Oberon Tigers 22

In their first Group 10 decider in 42 years, the Oberon Tigers were looking to recreate the great memories of the past.

And leading 22-8 with just 20 minutes remaining, it looked like the long-suffering Tigers faithful might finally enjoy grand final success for the first time since 1975.

However, led by their inspirational skipper Mick Sullivan, CYMS dug themselves out of a deep hole to storm their way to a 23-22 victory.

Sullivan landed a field goal with three minutes to go to seal his side's fifth premiership in eight years.

Leading 22-8, Oberon conceded three quick tries - Tom Satterthwaite grabbed two and Robbie Mortimer one - to lock it up at 22-all, before Sullivan's one-pointer claimed the premiership.

"We actually did a bit of practice on field goals the other night," a jubilant Sullivan laughed post-game.

"If it was long range it was probably Joey Duffy or Ben McAlpine, but close range I'd back myself. Mate, I didn't want to let the group down, not [after 2016's last-minute grand final loss to Mudgee].

"What a sensational effort. We were under the pump the whole game. It's just grit.

"That's five since I've been here, but this one's by far the best. It's just great for the club."

ORANGE CYMS 23 (Tom Satterthwaite 3, Sam Hill, Robbie Mortimer tries; Ben McAlpine goal, Mick Sullivan field goal) defeated OBERON TIGERS 22 (Tui Oloapu, Tyler Hughes, Luke Branighan, Luke Carpenter, Jackson Brien tries; Branighan goal) 

Bathurst Panthers captain-coach Doug Hewitt celebrates winning the 2018 grand final. Photo: PETER GUTHRIE

Bathurst Panthers captain-coach Doug Hewitt celebrates winning the 2018 grand final. Photo: PETER GUTHRIE

2018: Bathurst Panthers 12, Cowra Magpies 10

Bathurst Panthers five-eighth and goal-kicker Willie Wright told his captain-coach Doug Hewitt during the week that should the opportunity arise on Sunday, he'd win the game for him.

Little did he know he'd do exactly that.

With less than four minutes remaining in the Group 10 grand final against Cowra Magpies at Sid Kallas Oval, Wright got his opportunity and lived up to his word, knocking over the match-winning goal to seal a thrilling 12-10 win.

To make it even sweeter, the successful conversion was struck directly in front of the Panthers faithful on the eastern side of the ground.

The victory marked Panthers' first Group 10 premier league title since 2007.

Panthers trailed 10-0 at the break after conceding two early tries in the opening 13 minutes.

Cowra hooker Benji John went himself from dummy-half to open the scoring before centre Lee McClintock, one of Cowra's best on the day, finished off a sweeping play from left to right.

It became an arm wrestle and Panthers hung in, determined not to concede again.

It was in the 57th minute when the deadlock was broken with Panthers lock Blake Hewitt crashing over and Wright converting to reduce the deficit to 10-6.

With minutes remaining, still trailing 10-6, Panthers winger Andrew Mendes scored the equaliser and Wright's opportunity arose.

Having missed his aunty's wedding to play the grand final, Wright made sure he slotted it, and from his boot, he knew it was going over.

BATHURST PANTHERS 12 (Blake Hewitt, Andrew Mendes tries; Willie Wright 2 goals) defeated COWRA MAGPIES 10 (Benji John, Lee McClintlock; Caley Mok goal)

The 2010s grand final results in summary:

  • 2010: Orange CYMS 23, Mudgee Dragons 16
  • 2011: Orange CYMS 30, Lithgow Workmen's Club 12
  • 2012: Lithgow Workmen's Club 40, Orange CYMS 14
  • 2013: Orange CYMS 22, Orange Hawks 14
  • 2014: Bathurst St Pat's 34, Cowra Magpies 12
  • 2015: Orange CYMS 14, Lithgow Workmen's Club 10
  • 2016: Mudgee Dragons 14, Orange CYMS 10
  • 2017: Orange CYMS 23, Oberon Tigers 22
  • 2018: Bathurst Panthers 12, Cowra Magpies 10