GLEN Christini lifted the Queanbeyan Whites to glory when he led them to back-to-back John I Dent Cup premierships, but his return to Campese Field almost ended in a brawl on Saturday.
Christini was back in Queanbeyan as the coach of Parramatta at the Brumbies Q Sevens. But when he met his former team in the semi-finals, the passion resulted in a clash between the players as Parramatta advanced to the grand final.
Campese Field was the venue for some of Christini's greatest triumphs in Canberra. He helped the Whites break a 24-year premiership drought when he led them to the 2007 John I Dent Cup. He backed it up the next year before joining the Tuggeranong Vikings and lifting them to a triumph in 2009.
The coach has been in charge of Parramatta since 2011, and there was no love lost as the Two Blues beat the Vikings in the quarter-finals and edged the Whites out for a place in the grand final.
"It's good to be back and good fun as well, I love it," Christini said. "The Queanbeyan boys are friendly until we get on the field, and then it goes to custard.
"But I enjoy it and it's good to see everyone back. Things got a bit heated towards the end of the game against Queanbeyan, but that's what you get coming back.
"I've got fond memories - Queanbeyan played with attitude and heart and took on the big boys, so I still remember that adventure of my first two years."
The Two Blues fell to Manly in the grand final in a battle between two of the visiting teams. There were 16 teams in the men's competition and 13 in the women's.
Manly held on to beat Parramatta 20-15 to claim the title, while visiting Chinese team Shandong beat Parramatta in the women's decider.
Christini left Canberra to begin the challenge of rebuilding Parramatta. When he took over they were on the brink of collapse and lost five games by more than 100 points, but the turnaround in his three years has been striking.
They made the finals for the first time in 24 years last season, and Christini is confident they can be a contender this year.
"It's been a slow process, but we're getting closer," he said. "We've built it properly so it's long-lasting.''
Meanwhile, former Uni-Norths Owls player Adam Coleman, who is now with Parramatta, is on the verge of scoring a contract with the Western Force.
Coleman has been training in Perth and is a chance of getting a contract next year.
Christini and the Two Blues will return to Campese Field in April for a pre-season contest against his old club.