A game of pure emotion

There are a number of reasons why the Intrust Super Cup holds such wide appeal and is loved by so many, but if anything was reinforced at last Sunday’s grand final for me, it was the importance that emotion plays.

That pure, raw emotion that brings fans in the stands to tears and bonds team-mates for life, whether you were playing for the victorious Burleigh Bears or vanquished Redcliffe Dolphins.

But the true beauty from a journalist’s perspective is not only witnessing an outpouring of a wide range of emotions, but being able to capture the moment and share it with (hopefully) thousands of like-minded souls through the words of players as they experience the games highs and lows.

The NRL is such a behemoth that the mass of media that now gathers to cover games can’t be allowed onto the field of play at fulltime.

That pure, raw emotion that brings fans in the stands to tears and bonds team-mates for life, whether you were playing for the victorious Burleigh Bears or vanquished Redcliffe Dolphins.

Being able to mix with players and coaches from Burleigh and Redcliffe before the euphoria or despair had been washed away by a combination of ice baths and hot showers was such a treasured opportunity.

The entire Burleigh team had made their way into the dressing sheds before prop Paterika Vaivai dragged himself away from his family sitting high in the stands and spoke for a few minutes about the role they had played in keeping his rugby league dream alive.

Waka Wanahi revealed that he had retired 12 months ago to take up boxing, applied to be the NRL Rookie and loved to listen to reggae music as kids and their fathers shouted his name from the grandstand.

Cameron Cullen spoke openly and honestly all week about the tragedy of the passing of his brother Justin last year and his journey since that day while Jamal Fogarty revealed that he initially refused to captain the club just moments after raising the Intrust Super Cup trophy in triumph.

We were even allowed into the inner sanctum of the dressing sheds to watch the team song being sung off key, but with unbridled passion.

Amidst the dejection of the Redcliffe team, half Darren Nicholls couldn’t bring himself to talk, leaving it to captain Sam Anderson to reveal how his No.7 had stayed awake through the night in order to give his torn quadriceps muscle a chance to repair itself as best it could.

I can’t help feeling that these stories would not have carried the weight they did had they not been shared in such an emotional state.

Of course, there are more stories still to be told this weekend as Burleigh face the Illawarra Cutters for the Intrust Super Championship, a title that Intrust Super Cup clubs have won in both the years it has been contested to date.

Grand final heroes Sami Sauiluma and Pat Politoni get to play on NRL Grand Final day, but for Burleigh and not the Cronulla Sharks, who they both were forced to leave 12 months ago in order to continue their careers.

Even in the opposition Cutters team you have the Intrust Super Cup connection of coach Jason Demetriou, captain Tyrone McCarthy and half Shaun Nona amongst others; three key figures in the Northern Pride's premiership two years ago and subsequent State Championship victory.

This time two years ago, McCarthy spoke about the thrill of scoring a try on NRL grand final day, how the opportunity to play for the Pride had paved the way for his return to the Super League and how he hoped to one day return to Australia and play in the NRL, as he and his team-mates walked across to thank the bay of Pride fans who had made the trip to Sydney.

The Intrust Super Cup is so much more than a rich vein of talented footballers to be fed into full-time systems.

It exposes young men to the realities of life beyond the boundaries of a football field and gives them the tools to not only become better footballers, but better men.

All these boys have a story to tell and it's been an honour to share just a few of them with you.

C’arn the Bears!

A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com