Bulldogs 32 Kangaroos 24
Canberra Raiders Cup: Queanbeyan Kangaroos v Goulburn Workers Bulldogs
Queanbeyan Kangaroos take on Goulburn Workers Bulldogs in the Canberra Raiders Cup preliminary final. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
As far as red-letter football weekends go, Goulburn will find the one they just enjoyed hard to top.
A day after Mitch Cornish and Jarrod Croker ticked off lifelong dreams with the Canberra Raiders, Goulburn Bulldogs put the icing on the cake with a 32-24 preliminary final win over Queanbeyan Kangaroos at Seiffert Oval on Sunday.
Croker was the Raiders' sole captain for the first time in Saturday's victory over Wests Tigers, while halfback Cornish made his starting debut.
Both players were in the crowd to watch their home town secure its first grand final appearance since its 2009 Canberra Raiders Cup premiership.
A vintage two-try display from 38-year-old prop Michael Dodson, and classy touches from former Raiders players Mick and Ben Picker, helped pilot Goulburn to the decider against Queanbeyan Blues.
With their brother Joe also a chance to win an NRL premiership with Souths this year, Goulburn's football community is buzzing.
"Mum and dad will be doing some miles watching some footy the next couple of weeks I'd say, regardless of whether Joey is in the [Souths] team," Mick Picker said.
"To be honest with you I've probably found this year [first as captain-coach] more enjoyable than the last few years at Canberra [Raiders], less pressure.
"I had some great times at Canberra including a [2008 under-20] premiership, but to win next week would be pretty special, especially with my brother here."
For the second straight week the Kangaroos' right edge defence was exposed as Goulburn's potent left side ran rampant.
The Bulldogs raced to a 20-6 half-time lead after a dominant 40 minutes from their forwards.
But the Roos got back into the contest with early second-half tries to Ratu Tagive and Daniel Watt, which reduced the deficit to 20-18.
Goulburn regrouped when Blake Hewitt scored off a grubber kick in the 50th minute, which left the Roos fuming.
Roos player-coach Aaron Gorrell was adamant his side was denied a fair chance to reset its defensive line when he was down on the ground with an injury.
Soon after Dodson trampled over three defenders on a 20-metre solo run to the try line to seal victory.
"There wouldn't be anyone else who puts the hours into themselves like 'Doddo' does," Picker said.
"He's up at five in the morning at the gym, he's winding back the clock.
"I didn't really want to be that coach figure this year, just one of the boys that leads us. He takes a lot of weight off my shoulders."
Picker said Croker and Cornish's achievement had been the talk of the town, and is providing inspirations to its vibrant junior nursery.
"The thing for the Goulburn juniors, looking at the success those boys are doing in the higher grades will motivate them," Picker said.
"Mitch has gone ahead in leaps and bounds and I think he'll be there for a long time.
"Crokes may as well build a house next door to the Raiders' training complex because he's gonig to be there for a while."
The Roos also paid for a slow start in last week's major semi loss to the Blues, but Gorrell insisted the refereeing call before the Hewitt try robbed his side of a comeback.
"The slow start didn't kill us, one bloke [referee] killed us with one call," he said.
"We had all the momentum and got ourselves to 20-18, I go down and he calls time off.
"I stand up not in our line and all our blokes are standing around, he blows time and they score.
"We shouldn't have been in that position, we worked hard to get back in it and it was all us."
Canberra Raiders Cup preliminary final: Goulburn Bulldogs 32 (Michael Dodson 2, Michael Bani, Nathan Chappell, Junior Vatakani, Blake Hewitt tries; Ben Picker 4 goals) bt Queanbeyan Kangaroos 24 (Daniel Watt 2, Ratu Tagive, Luke Sutton tries; Jordan Macey 4 goals)
Other preliminary final results
Second grade: Queanbeyan Blues 42 bt Queanbeyan Roos 16.
Under-18 division one: Tuggeranong 22 bt Queanbeyan Blues 22-16
Under-18 division two: Gungahlin 40 bt Crookwell 16
GRAND FINAL DAY - SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, SEIFFERT OVAL
Canberra Raiders Cup: Queanbeyan Blues v Goulburn, 3pm
Second grade: West Belconnen v Queanbeyan Blues, 1.10pm
Under-18 division one: Belconnen Scholars v Tuggeranong, 11.40am
Under-18 division two: Tuggeranong v Gungahlin, 10.10am