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Unpredictable and exhilarating ... right until the very end.

The 2013 Intrust Super Cup season again lived up to its status as the countrys premier second-tier rugby league competition. Fittingly, the last match of the season raised the bar once more with a classic grand final encounter between the Easts Tigers and Mackay Cutters at the North Ipswich Reserve.

The Tigers went into the September 29 decider as the hot fancies, despite never having won a Cup premiership since the formation of the statewide competition in 1996. Fresh from their major semi-final win over the Northern Pride and with a host of Melbourne Storm contracted players in their line-up, it all pointed towards a breakthrough premiership for the Langlands Park club.

But the Cutters were equally determined, and they answered their critics once again with a controlled performance on the biggest stage of the year. Easts led 8-0 early in the game and 14-10 at halftime, but they could never fully shrug off the Cutters.

The heavyweight contest thrilled more than 6500 fans, who generated a superb atmosphere throughout the afternoon. At 20-20 with the clock counting down, the Cutters landed a decisive blow with a Matt Minto field goal.

Easts werent done with however and mounted pressure on the Cutters line in a frenetic finish, but the northern team held firm before landing the knockout blow at the other end of the field through a try to man-of-the-match Anthony Mitchell (Duncan Hall Medallist).

The 27-20 victory handed Mackay a maiden Intrust Super Cup premiership, a remarkable achievement under such difficult circumstances. The Cutters promising start to the season was rocked by the passing of the much loved Alex Elisala in late April. His death shattered the tight-knit club, but everyone shared the common goal to win the ultimate prize for the man they called Lek.

And that they did. Their fairytale grand final victory was filled with many magical moments. It saw Elisalas close mate Michael Morgan streak away for a breathtaking one-handed touch down in the right corner and it saw first-year coach Kim Williams swept up in jubilant post-match scenes.

Like all grand finals, there had to be a loser. The Tigers were equally courageous and their effort deserved more. They could however be exceptionally proud of their 2013 campaign under new coach Craig Ingebrigtsen, who moulded a talented but somewhat erratic group into a formidable outfit by seasons end.

The Tigers roared into September on the back of a stellar finish to the regular season, following up a final round 50-6 thrashing of Souths Logan with a stylish 31-18 win over Mackay in the opening week of the finals. In week two of the finals, they did what very few teams have managed to do beat the Northern Pride at Barlow Park.

The Tigers 29-16 win over the minor premiers pitched them into the grand final. The Pride never recovered, falling 20-6 to the Cutters in the preliminary final at Langlands Park the following weekend. Although bitterly disappointed with their exit, the Pride can draw satisfaction from their outstanding regular season which saw them win 17 of their 22 matches under new coach Jason Demetriou.

Teams four and five in the Intrust Super Cup finals the Wynnum Manly Seagulls and Ipswich Jets were also high achievers in 2013. Wynnum Manly displayed incredible character to qualify for the finals after head coach Graham Murray was unable to fulfil his commitments due to a serious health scare before a ball had even been kicked. Murray sadly passed away shortly before the finals but the Seagulls still kept coming, downing the Pride in the final match of the regular season to snatch fourth spot.

Their win set up a mouth-watering elimination final against the Jets at BMD Kougari Oval. The fifth-placed Jets stunned the Seagulls with a perfectly executed game plan on their way to a 33-6 victory. But without suspended duo Donald Malone and Sam Martin, Ipswich couldnt reproduce that same form the following week and were bundled out by the Matt Minto inspired Cutters.

The Cutters premiership win was just one of many highlights from another successful season. Here are some of the others ...

Season Launch

The 2013 Intrust Super Cup was officially launched on March 11 at the Regatta Hotel. Hosted by Channel 9 reporter Yvonne Sampson at the iconic hotel, the launch featured representatives from all 12 clubs along with Queensland Rugby League officials, media, sponsors and other dignitaries and guests.

A new broadcast deal that saw live games beamed into Papua New Guinea each week and the unveiling of Australian singer-songwriter Pete Murray as the No. 1 ticketholder were among the announcements made at the launch.

QRL Gala Dinner

The QRL Gala Dinner, held at the heritage listed City Hall on September 4, attracted some of the leading figures in the game. NRL CEO Dave Smith and Maroons coach Mal Meninga were among the special guests at the spectacular dinner which celebrated the achievements of players, coaches and officials.

The evening was filled with suspense as Easts Tigers five-eighth Cody Walker finished with an avalanche of points to edge out South Logans Mat Pitman for the prestigious Courier-Mail Medal. Northern Pride fullback Hezron Murgha was the inaugural recipient of the XXXX Peoples Choice Award.

Country Week

Yarrabah, Woodford and the Whitsundays hosted Intrust Super Cup games for the first time as part of the competitions Country Week Round in August. Other matches were played in Toowoomba, Roma and on the Gold Coast.

The match in Toowoomba between the Ipswich Jets and Wynnum Manly Seagulls was televised live on Channel 9 and generated strong interest and publicity in the Garden City.

Petero Civoniceva

Former Queensland and Australian prop Petero Civoniceva played the full season with the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Intrust Super Cup. Civoniceva was not only a tower of strength in the middle for the Dolphins, but was a tremendous ambassador for the Intrust Super Cup and the code.

Eager to give back to the game, Civoniceva embraced his return to grassroots rugby league from the moment he agreed to play a final season with his junior club. After each and every match, he signed hundreds of autographs for fans who turned out in huge numbers right across the state.

Turn to Me Campaign

The passing of promising hooker Alex Elisala spurred Ipswich Jets chairman Steven Johnson into action and along with Redcliffe Dolphins captain Petero Civoniceva and fellow front-row forward Isaak Ah Mau; they sought to find a way to raise awareness of the issue of depression amongst rugby league players. After setting up a meeting with QRL competitions manager Jamie OConnor, the wheels were set in motion for the game to highlight the need for action on an issue which was devastatingly brought to the fore.

In partnership with beyondblue, who work to increase awareness and understanding of depression and anxiety in Australia and to reduce the associated stigma, the QRL launched the inaugural Turn to Me round in the Intrust Super Cup in June. Such was its impact, the Turn to Me round will become an annual fixture on the Intrust Super Cup calendar and has already been adopted by two NRL clubs.

Television Ratings/Media

Television ratings on the Channel 9/Win Network grew by 3.8% on 2012. In another positive outcome, this years Intrust Super Cup grand final attracted an average audience of 157,000. The Intrust Super Cups social media platforms also grew substantially, with its Facebook page leaping from 1598 likes to 8001 within a 12 month period.

Media coverage from outside organisations went to a new level as well. The Courier-Mail and Sunday-Mail led the way with a notable increase in its local rugby league coverage throughout August and September. Once again, club and competition news featured prominently in APN and Quest publications, while 4BC and Nova were big supporters along with a host of other regional media outlets.

Fans were spoilt for choice on grand final day as the QRL brought the game to the people like never before. Along with Channel 9s live coverage and the ABC Grandstand call, the main game was streamed live on for the first time.

In another first, the Colts and FOGS Cup grand finals were streamed live with commentary from Mike Higgison and Troy Robbins. The extensive coverage was complemented by rolling scores, pictures and updates on the Intrust Super Cup Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Grand Final Day

The decision to switch the grand final from Suncorp Stadium to the North Ipswich Reserve was met with some criticism. However, the QRL was delighted with the days proceedings at Ipswich, with many fans providing positive feedback.

More than 6500 spectators generated a superb atmosphere at the ground, which was professionally presented with assistance from the Ipswich City Council, Ipswich Rugby League and Ipswich Jets.

FOGS Competitions

The Easts Tigers took out the double with wins in both the FOGS Colts and FOGS Cup grand finals. The Tigers downed Redcliffe 26-16 in the Colts decider and notched a second premiership just a couple of hours later when their FOGS Cup team beat Ipswich 40-18.

Ten teams contested this years Colts competition. The FOGS Cup featured six teams, although there are plans to expand this competition next year under a restructured format involving other local Brisbane clubs.


Courier Mail Best and Fairest:

Cody Walker Easts Tigers

XXXX Peoples Choice Award:

Hezron Murgha Northern Pride

Carbine Club Rookie of the Year:

Cameron Munster Central Queensland Capras

Men of League Coach of the Year:

Jason Demetriou Northern Pride

XXXX Representative Player of the Year:

Nick Slyney Redcliffe Dolphins

Cyril Connell Cup Player of the Year:

Logan Spaander Norths Devils

Mal Meninga Cup Player of the Year:

Sam Grant Gold Coast Green

Womens Representative Player of the Year:

Steph Hancock

FOGS Cup Player of the Year:

Khan Ahwang Ipswich Jets

FOGS Colts Player of the Year:

Conner Toia Burleigh Bears

Intrust Super Cup Leading Try Scorer:

Davin Crampton Northern Pride

Intrust Super Cup Leading Point Scorer:

Cody Walker Easts Tigers

Spotless Club Championship 2013:

Easts Tigers

Nick Euclid Medal: (Grand Final Referee)

Clayton Sharpe