Written by Stuart McLennan
Former NRL and Super League hooker Aaron Gorrell is hoping he can achieve the same success at Cooma he enjoyed while coaching the Queanbeyan Roos for a decade. In those 10 years Gorrell took the club to three premierships while finishing high on the ladder the other seasons.
“I enjoyed my time there (Queanbeyan Roos). Six grand finals and either preliminary or semi-finals the other four years,” Gorrell told Everything Rugby League.
“It’s a long time at one place and I needed a new challenge, and a league loving town like Cooma coming off a few lean years, I thought was a perfect fit.”
The last time Cooma won the Group 16 title was in 2017 and the wily dummy half is hoping that 2021 will be the next one after the team opened the season with victories in the first two matches, 26-10 over Bombala and 44-6 against Eden.
“I am very happy with the way we have started . In saying that we still have lots of improvement left and we will need to if we want to play finals footy. Group 16 didn’t play last year because of Covid and Cooma had two tough years before that. Most games had up to eight players backing up from reserve grade. That makes it tough to compete week in week out. We have a great group that are willing to work for each other and never give up so it’s a pleasure to coach them.
“We have a pretty young squad with a nice mix of older heads which you need. It’s a great feel around the place and the crowd at our first home game was amazing. Hopefully we can string a few wins together for them. We have a few blokes that grew up in Cooma, moved away and have come back. It would be great to see the local boys have some success.”
One man that will most likely have a big say in that success is centre Karlos Filiga who moved to Cooma and the Stallions in 2017. If the name rings a bell it’s because he made media headlines in 2007 when he signed with the Cronulla Sharks as a teenager for a reported $600,000 over three years.
“Karlos is a very humble ,quietly spoken giant . As a player I am very glad he is on our team. He has one of the strongest carries I’ve seen with a bump to match. When he gets the ball something normally comes from it. Exciting player.”
After ceremoniously throwing his boots in the bin at the end of the 2017 season Gorrell has returned to the field in 2021 at the age of 40.
“I had been doing a bit of training for a 150km charity walk and started to feel ok so I thought while I still can, let’s do it . My body is getting there. I’ve had a bit of old man calf and hammy dramas the first few rounds but I think I have got that worked out so looking forward to the next few weeks. Forty and putting the boots back on after so long isn’t so easy,” said Gorell who played a total of 6O NRL games for St George Illawarra and Brisbane between 2002 and 2009 with a 24 match stint with the Catalans Dragons in between.
Gorell is still living in Canberra with his family, commuting for training and game days but he has been impressed with the support from the locals in the Cooma area.
“I am still living in Canberra so I drive down and back for training. Game day depending on where and the day we play, the family and I will stay down and make a weekend of it .
“The locals love their league . We have some new sponsors on board which is tough at the moment after covid which we really appreciate . The crowd at our first home game was great and hopefully they keep growing if we can keep winning.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say (my goal) was winning the Grand Final. It’s tough there’s a lot of good sides and we will have to improve a long way to do it but I think we have the squad to give it a good shake . I’d be disappointed if we didn’t make the semis.”
Current NRL players Sam Williams and Jack Williams as well as former Raiders and Storm enforcer Brett White came up through the junior ranks at Cooma.