THE Cyril Connell Cup state final will be decided by two teams who finished first and second in the Pool B regular season ladder; with both the Townsville Stingers and Northern Pride recording impressive semi-final victories last weekend.
The Stingers showed their strength in overcoming a valiant Gold Coast White 42-12 with Gehamat Shibasaki bagging a hat-trick while the Pride proved too strong for Souths Logan Magpies in their 38-20 triumph.
Pride coach Shane O’Flanagan was delighted with his side’s accomplishment; but also knows this Saturday’s decider against the unbeaten Stingers will be their biggest challenge yet.
“This is a massive achievement for Northern Pride and a credit to the systems we’ve had in place plus our academy,” he said.
“There’s a lot of excitement, but the job’s not done and Townsville are the form side with the best for and against all season, so they’re a big task.”
When the Pride faced Stingers in round 3 they went down 44-12, but O’Flanagan said his side took a lot out of playing against such a level of competition.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wake-up call as we had a few injuries and it was early in the season, but it was a good lesson,” he said.
“We understand now we have to be at our A-game to play and beat a quality side like Townsville, so it’s good to have that coming into this game.”
This lesson learned has been evident in Pride’s unbeaten run since then and O’Flanagan said the Souths win has added to this enthusiasm.
“There is a lot of confidence building, it’s been building for a few weeks now,” he said.
“With our structure and plays we executed well against Souths, we took the game by the scruff of the neck, but we need to keep doing that.”
Stingers coach Allan Peterson agreed these have been the two best sides throughout the season and is not reading much into their previous clash.
“I think it was proven on the weekend both sides deserve to be here,” he said.
“Pride have come a long way since we met, we definitely respect them as a football team and this is a whole new ball game.”
Peterson was also pleased with his side’s growth throughout the season and said reaching the season climax was a fitting prize.
“I’m pretty proud of the boys, their hard work is paying off,” he said.
“It’s very satisfying to see their development, the boys have come a long way and it’s also a great reward for all the coaching staff.”
As well as the prestigious Cyril Connell Cup, the grand final winner will also represent Queensland in a match against the winners of the NSWRL’s Harold Matthews Cup.