Last year about two months before the finals series, I wrote that the Sunshine Coast Falcons were going to finish outside the top six.
Coach Craig Ingebrigtsen thought so much of my piece that he plastered it across the dressing room walls and later told me that it helped inspire his team's winning run that only ended one week before the Intrust Super Cup grand final.
Last week – with the help of Burleigh coach Jim Lenihan – I wrote that it was next to an impossibility to win this year's grand final if you didn't finish in the top two; however, the Falcons don't think too much of that theory.
After finishing the regular season in fourth position, the Falcons will host Souths Logan on Sunday afternoon on what will be a massive day also featuring the local Sunny Coast grand finals.
CEO Chris Flannery is predicting a crowd in excess of 3000 to flood in.
“Last year showed that no matter where you finish, anyone can win on their day."
As is the clash between Easts and Townsville also on Sunday afternoon, the Falcons v Magpies match-up is sudden death, while PNG and Redcliffe sit by waiting to play their grand final qualifier in a week's time.
Falcons hooker Alex Bishop knows the challenge of winning four do-or-die matches in order to be crowned champions is a daunting one, but he insists the team is in a much better position than last year when they upset the Hunters in PNG and Blackhawks in Townsville on their way to the Preliminary Final.
“Last year showed that no matter where you finish, anyone can win on their day," Bishop said.
“When we went to PNG we played some really good footy and got them, we went to Townsville and got them and when we went to Redcliffe and we shot out to a 12-point lead and you're thinking it's pretty smooth sailing.
“Anyone can win it, no matter where they are and we're better positioned this year than we were last year.
“We're not travelling to PNG, we've got a home semi to start, we had a good tough game against Townsville going into the finals and there’s the chance that if Townsville beat Easts, we might get another home semi.
“I think we're in a really good position this year to play some good footy and really build on our chances of trying to take it out.”
Complicating the Falcons' charge last year was the lack of training the full squad was able to do due to the travel required and the late arrivals of players coming back from the Melbourne Storm.
The club is hopeful of having Carbine Club Rookie of the Year Brandon Smith available to return from a broken hand along with other Storm-contracted players such as Ryley Jacks, Jahrome Hughes and Justin Olam, even if it means another disrupted training week.
“We trained as a full squad on Saturday before our Townsville game for the first time in eight or 10 weeks," Bishop said of their 42-16 win over the Blackhawks.
“It is hard, because you've got blokes who are going to be playing who aren't training with you so it does take a while to form combinations and some rhythm but every club does it.
“It's about being able to have that depth in that core group of players who are going to be playing every week and then the blokes who come from Melbourne or up from local comps can fil the void and everything meshes together.
“We trained like we weren't going to have any Melbourne players from day one of pre-season to game-day.
“We know that regardless of what we get, we're still confident that we're training hard with what we've got.”
Did you know?
While Falcons players will be desperate to give coach Craig Ingebrigtsen something to celebrate in his 50th game in charge of the club, Souths Logan have some fairly strong motivation of their own to call on. Captain Phil Dennis plays his 254th Cup game on Sunday, moving him to third on the all-time list behind Troy Lindsay (270) and Danny Coburn (258). The Magpies defeated the Falcons 22-12 at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Round 2, one of only two teams to beat the Falcons at home all season.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.