Intrust Super Championship preview
Burleigh Bears v Illawarra Cutters
ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 2 - 2.40pm (Queensland time)
Broadcast: Live on Channel 9 and FOX Sports 1
Referees: Referees Appointments
Twitter: #IntrustSuperChamps #NRLGF
The bookies may have them as outsiders, but proving doubters wrong is what 2016 has been all about for the I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears.
Fresh off winning the Intrust Super Cup for the first time in 12 years, the Bears head to Sydney to take on the Illawarra Cutters as part of NRL grand final day this Sunday.
With the Intrust Super Championship on the line for the third time, the Bears take on the Illawarra Cutters, who upset the Mounties last week to win the Intrust Super Premiership grand final 21-20.
The Cutters will start as favourites with the punters, but Bears coach Jim Lenihan said that being written off is something his side has embraced all year.
“We’ve proven people wrong all year, and even right through until the very end,” he said.
“No one thought we could beat Redcliffe at Redcliffe (in the major semi-final) and we did that. No one thought we could win the grand final and we did that.
“I think throughout the whole year we’ve always been touted as too fat, or too slow, or too unfit, and the demons of other years have been the excuse for people to say that we’re not going to be good enough or that we’re always going to fade out of games.
“We relish being the underdog. We relish punching above our weight with next to no expectations on us. I think that’s when we give ourselves our best chance; when nobody else gives us any.”
It is a massive occasion with a national audience watching and Lenihan said that his team should have no issues getting up for the game despite being just a week removed from an emotional premiership win.
“It’s been a long year and we’re very grateful to still be playing football at this stage of the year,” he said.
“To get the opportunity to go to Sydney and play at ANZ Stadium before the NRL grand final and be the only Queensland team still playing football is very humbling.
“Footballers at this level are very competitive by nature, so to have the extra carrot of not only playing on NRL grand final day, but to perform well and show people what you’ve done this year is important.”
“We’ve proven people wrong all year, and even right through until the very end."
Adding to the significance of the occasion is the announcement that long-time Bear Louis Fanene will be hanging up the boots at the end of the game.
Fanene joined the Bears in 2011 and has made 115 Intrust Super Cup appearances for the club.
He has been a loved and respected figure for the club on and off the field for many years and the opportunity to send him out a winner is something his team-mates will be desperate to achieve.
“This playing group will never play together again,” Lenihan said.
“Cullen, Fogarty and Vaivai are off to the NRL and Louis is retiring, so just out of that in itself the players will be putting their best foot forward out of respect for Louis.
“This is his last game of rugby league and we want to make sure he goes out on a positive note, getting to finish his football the way he deserves.
“It’s very important for us to have a very strong mental approach to the game and understand how important this game is to us and to the Cutters, and we want to win it. It’s desperate for us to go out there and put in a good performance.”
The Cutters are a very good team with plenty of excellent players, but one of their biggest threats is coach Jason Demetriou.
Demetriou’s resume includes an Intrust Super Cup grand final win in 2014 and an Intrust Super State Championship win that same year.
He was an assistant coach for the North Queensland Cowboys during their NRL premiership year in 2015 and now he is an Intrust Super Premiership winner as well.
“They’ve got a wonderful coach in Demetriou,” Lenihan said of his opposite number.
“There is no doubt that he is a very good operator. He gets his teams up for this and he’s already won the Intrust Super State Championship before.
“NSW having not won it before, I think there is a bit more expectation on them to put in and get one, so we’re certainly going to be up against it; but like I said, that’s sort of how we like it.”
Burleigh have named the same 17 players that won the grand final at Suncorp Stadium last Sunday, with Parahi Wilson added to the squad.