By CRAIG ROSScraigr@gladstoneobserver.com.au
THE Wallabys reserve grade rugby league team used a tragic loss to inspire them to a memorable victory in their pre-season final triumph over Gladstone Brothers on Sunday.
Wallabys battled hard to hold out a determined Brothers 38-34 but the win meant more than a trophy or bragging rights.
The team has dedicated the win, and its entire season, to the memory of James "Jumbo'' Johnson, 32, and Darnell Ingra, 4, who were killed in a three-vehicle accident north of Mackay in January.
Darnell's father Conrad said the family was touched by the Wallabys' gesture.
The team's had an influx of mates who weren't even going to play this season but they've put the boots back on,'' Ingra said yesterday.
He said the return of several experienced players was having a positive affect on the team.
"A lot of the lads are in their 30s but they've shown they've still got the ability (to play),'' he said.
"The mix of young kids and experienced players is working well and the fact they have dedicated their season to 'Jumbo' and Darnell keeps them striving for more.
Wallabys' reserve graders have opened the season with eight successive victories, including trial matches, and Ingra said there was a strong feeling of common purpose among the players and supporters.
He said the team would wear black armbands throughout the entire season as a symbol of their dedication to the memory of their fallen friends.
"It's become a tight-knit group,'' Ingra said.
"Not just the Murries but also the non-Aboriginal players.'' Ingra said the club's support was greatly appreciated by the Ingra and Johnson families and had helped them cope with their loss.
Johnson had started pre-season training with Wallabys prior to the accident while the Ingras have had a long association with the club.
Pre-season final: Wallabys 38 (Celistina Canendo 2, Richard Geesu 2, Ronnie Bosven, Nigel Daisy, Jamie Powell tries, Drew Palmer 5 goals) d Brothers 34 (Brett Lindenberg 2, Richie Dynevor, Will Docherty, Scott Rooney, Dave Zammitt tries, Docherty 2, Lindenberg goals). Man of the match: Michael Ghee (Wallabys).