FAIRY TALE FINISH AS RATPACK REIGN SUPREMEIn terms of sporting fairy tales, few are as fantastical as the one that played out on a damp Queens Park number one field late in the morning on the first Sunday of March.
The Ratpack, now a motley crew of former first graders, up-and-coming rugby league stars and a hell of a lot of park footy punters with aspirations far greater than their ability, first came to fruition back in the Eastern Suburbs Touch Football Association’s summer competition in the mid-2000s. Back then, former first graders and up-and-comers certainly weren’t part of the mix.
Rooted somewhere down around Division 16, the Ratpack was a ragtag bunch of school friends, ring-ins and anyone else who was keen to pull on the boots and make up the numbers. Needless to say the results weren’t tremendous.
Some clever tactical recruitment, courtesy of one of the ring-in’s friendship with former Queensland State of Origin halfback Adrian Lam, provided the change of fortunes the Ratpack desperately needed to begin a meteoric rise through the grades that not even those who dared to dream could’ve imagined.
Premierships in divisions 12, 9, 7, 5, 4, 3 and 2 soon followed, and before they knew it the Ratpack was fighting it out with the big boys in Division 1.
Lam stuck strong with the team throughout, along with the likes of ‘Jibber’ Shears, the Kery brothers and captain courageous Steve ‘Hursty’ Hirst, as other great names like Ari Anderson, James Hutton, Andrew Lemon, Rafe Petkovic and Joe Hughes succumbed to age, injury and the lure of the referee’s high-vis t-shirt and whistle.
Children of players grew into more-than-competent young men on the field and the Ratpack became a battle-hardened juggernaut that was always hard to stop at the business end of the season.
In 2016, the Ratpack qualified for their first Division 1 grand final against an old nemesis, the Grasscutters, a team that had defeated them in the 2015 Division 2 grand final in extra time. A one-try lead to the Ratpack would be erased on the final play in regular time, and a crucial lost toss before the extra time drop-off led to a devastating defeat.
The 2016/17 season was marred by wash-outs and forfeits, but somehow the Ratpack finished on top of the table. Old foes the Grasscutters were unceremoniously disposed of in the semi-finals, setting up a date with destiny against the Flamingos in the big dance.
The Ratpack started strongly and raced out to a three try lead against an undermanned Flamingos outfit with a bench emptier than a Chernobyl nightclub. By half time the lead had been cut to one try and just moments into the second half scores were level at 3-all. But the Ratpack were not going to let this one slip through their fingers, putting on three of the next four tries to race out to a 6-4 lead and secure the Peter (Ted) Boulton Memorial Trophy, a victory some 12 years in the making.
At this point I should mention what a great job John Ryan and his fellow organisers do with the Eastern Suburbs Touch Football Association. Without this competition, fairy tales like the one above would not be possible.