THE ghosts of season past have stalked both teams in this year’s Intrust Super Cup grand final – with the Northern Pride and Easts Tigers both carrying their own mental shackles into this year’s decider.
The Pride however have already shaken off one burden – simply by claiming their spot in the premiership decider.
As they were again this year – the Pride of 2013 were the most dominant team of the season having claimed the minor premiership.
Last year however, they lost both their finals matches against Easts and eventual premiers Mackay and were left to look on as the Cutters claimed the spoils.
For the Tigers – the memory of last year’s loss was more acute. Given their strong run in the finals series and spread of talent, they were favourites to claim their first major title since 1991 – but were swept away by the Cutters in a thrilling match.
Skipper Steven Thorpe is leaving the club to join the Sheffield Eagles next season and said the whole squad were relishing the chance to finish on a high by going one better.
“We wanted to forget about it, but you can’t forget a day like that and it means a lot to us,” Thorpe said.
“We have got an opportunity to change it this year, so hopefully we can do better than we did last year.”
With both teams fielding star-studded line-ups, expectations are high for a classic grand final encounter that will feature more attacking flair than their recent major semi-final match-up.
While that last meeting was an undeniably gripping contest – Tigers coach Craig Ingebrigtsen admitted the football on display was not as good as many may have hoped.
“For us, we didn’t play that well up there in Cairns and we certainly got close to them; (but) I don’t think the Pride were that good either on the night,” Ingebrigtsen said.
“We both didn’t play that well so we will certainly be looking to play a lot better this weekend.
“But we got a lot out of that – we were pretty busted up there and we had a real red hot crack … but it all comes down to this weekend.
“I think we are steeled for it, I think we are a lot better … (playing three tough matches) has certainly worked in our favour.”
Rival coach Jason Demetriou said the support for the team from people across the region was heartening, with excitement building in the lead-up to the big day.
“We know we have good support … we know we have a good chunk of people up in Cairns, Townsville and around Northern Queensland supporting us,” he said.
“Just going around the streets in Cairns, the amount people that are coming up to you and wishing you well (and saying) they can’t wait to watch the game is a first for me up there and it just shows the interest that has been generated.”
A newcomer to the area this season, Pride forward Tyrone McCarthy has been a solid performer for the northerners this year and is excited by the opportunity to play at Suncorp Stadium.
McCarthy, who is returning to the UK to play in the Super League with Hull Kingston Rovers next season – also dared to think of the next step that awaits this Sunday’s winner – a trip to ANZ Stadium in Sydney to take on the winner of the NSW Cup on NRL grand final day.
“That would be massive,” the Irish Wolfhounds vice-captain said. “When I first came out here, I was just looking to start enjoying my footy again and that definitely happened.
“And to get a bit of success along the way; it would be even better and to play on NRL finals day.”