FLASHBACK FRIDAY: BULLS OVERRUN LEOPARDS FOR INAUGURAL BARTERCARD CUP TITLE
As the SENZ Canterbury Bulls prepare for a crucial NZRL National Premiership showdown with Auckland Vulcans at Ngā Puna Wai on Sunday, Flashback Friday revisits one of the Canterbury provincial side’s greatest triumphs since taking on the Bulls moniker – the 2000 Bartercard Cup success.
Coached by Gerard Stokes, Canterbury finished second in the 22-round minor premiership of the fledgling competition behind Otahuhu Leopards, chalking up 15 wins and seven losses. The Bulls defeated Eastern Tornadoes to advance to the major semi-final, where they were trounced 51-28 by the Leopards.
The Maurice Emslie-led Bulls regrouped to thump Wainuiomata 34-6 in the preliminary final, earning a rematch with Otahuhu in the grand final at Auckland’s Carlaw Park, one of the last big games held at the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby league prior to its closure in 2002.
Canterbury twice came from behind to win a thrilling grand final 38-24. Otahuhu led 8-2 after 10 minutes, but the Bulls powered back to lead 20-8 at halftime. The Leopards rallied to grab a 24-20 advantage after 52 minutes, before the Bulls came home with a wet sail to score the last four tries of the match.
Fullback Lusi Sione and centre Raymond Hubbard scored two tries apiece, while Emslie, former St George Dragons forward Robert Henare, Gafa Tuiloma and Malala Pua’avase all grabbed four-pointers in the victory.
There was a also a fresh-faced tyro named Jonny Limmer in the No.13 jumper for the Bulls; 18 years later the utility was still starring in grand finals for Hornby Panthers.
Sione, Shane Beyers and Scott Woodgate all finished in the top 10 of the Bartercard Cup Best and Fairest award count, while Stokes, who passed away in December 2020, was named coach of the year.
Woodgate led the Bulls’ tryscoring tally with 21 (equal-fourth in the competition), while Hubbard crossed 19 times (seventh) and Sione 16 (equal-10th). Hubbard was second in the pointscoring stakes behind Mt Albert’s former Warriors player Carl Doherty, amassing 204 points from 19 tries and 64 goals.
Sione, Woodgate and Shaun Norton represented the Stokes-coached New Zealand Residents side that toured Australia in July, chalking up big wins over Victoria and Dubbo Combined, while going down narrowly to Sydney Metropolitan.
There was a nine-strong Bulls contingent in the Residents side that took on Australia at Gosford in a World Cup warm-up clash later in the year, which saw the Kangaroos rack up a record 108-0 victory, with Adam MacDougall scoring five tries and Mat Rogers tallying 30 points.
The Bulls’ next national competition success came in 2003 under Phil Prescott’s coaching.
CANTERBURY BULLS 2000 BARTERCARD CUP GRAND FINAL LINE-UP
1 Lusi Sione
2 Scott Woodgate
3 Gafa Tuiloma
4 Raymond Hubbard
5 Gareth Cook
6 Scott Nixon
7 Maurice Emslie (c)
8 Kevin Te Hau
9 Shane Beyers
10 Craig Barrow
11 Shaun Norton
12 Graeme Emslie
13 Jonny Limmer
14 Clayton Harris
15 Malala Pua’avase
16 Robert Henare
17 Enoka Mamoe
Coach: Gerard Stokes
Source: New Zealand Rugby League Annual 2000