Bears and Panthers meet in televised women's grand final
It will be the legacy of the defending champs up against the underdogs trying to make their mark when the Burleigh Bears and West Brisbane Panthers contest the SEQW Division 1 grand final this Saturday at Cbus Super Stadium.
The West Brisbane Panthers have been the giant killers of the finals series in 2018, coming from fourth to eliminate Easts Tigers and Brothers Ipswich in consecutive weeks and book their place in the final.
Both games were tight, gritty affairs where the Panthers managed to outlast their opposition and secure victory. This Saturday (August 11), they face their biggest challenge yet in the form of the three-time defending premiers.
The Burleigh Bears have had another outstanding year, racking up 12 wins, a draw and just three losses to finish the regular season as minor premiers. Furthermore, the Bears have won nine games on the trot and haven't tasted defeat since April 28; 15 weeks ago.
Burleigh will start favourites, but the Panthers have already proven fearless in this finals series and will no doubt arrive on the Gold Coast believing and expecting to win.
Panthers coach Craig Green said his side had developed a 'never say die' attitude and self-belief that has been perfectly suited to sudden-death football.
"I'm really happy with the effort," he said. "To go back-to-back and perform the way they have is outstanding.
"They never give up. If something goes wrong, they just put it behind them and just keep putting the efforts in. It's a good team culture and a good team environment.
"It's something we've tried to instil in the team all year. You've got to play for the person next to you and have faith in the person next to you."
Green said he'll be hoping for the same level of effort and determination against a Bears side that come into this game fresh having enjoyed last weekend off.
"They're well coached and they've had the same roster for a long time which certainly helps," he said of the Bears.
"They've got quality players across the park; several Queensland Origin players and they've been the benchmark for years. It's certainly something they should be proud of."
Burleigh are gunning for their fourth consecutive title and while each year is a new goal with new challenges, they are aware of what they have achieved as a group in the past and are determined to keep that standard.
"We definitely do think about our legacy and our standards and at the start of the year, four in a row was our aim," Bears coach Tahnee Norris said.
"We slipped a real bit at the start of the season with a few losses, but in the middle of the season, we had a really big chat about it and said we needed to lift our standards again. I think we achieved that.
"It will be talked about again at our last training session just to make sure that we're doing all the right things leading into the game on Saturday."
Norris, a former Jillaroos stalwart, is confident ahead of the big game; but knows the danger of a team like the Panthers getting on a roll in the finals.
"They'll be on a high," she said. "They're playing really good footy and they've got some really good young players in that team that we need to look out for.
"They've been doing really well and they're growing each game and that's something we'll need to make sure we stop."
The Division 1 grand final will not only be played at Cbus Super Stadium as a curtain raiser to the Titans vs Panthers NRL fixture, but the game will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports (Channel 502) with kick-off at 12.30pm.
Both coaches said they and their team would relish the occasion - and with so many eyes on the game, it was an opportunity for their players to make their mark and potentially push for future representative or NRL selection.
"It's exciting," Norris said of the occasion. "It's been a long time coming and it's a great thing for women's rugby league.
"There are players that have missed contracts that are still in this Burleigh Bears team that I think can be future NRL players. I don't know if there are any contracts left at the moment, but it's definitely something the selectors will be keeping an eye on if they can put their hand up in this game.
"I think it's great. There is a stack of family going and we're really behind family being a part of our team, so this is going to be a really big game for us."
The Panthers are also set to have a large contingent make the journey down to the Gold Coast.
"I think we've got three buses going down," Green said. "The support our team gets at our club is outstanding and I think it will be a great thrill to get to see them play in a stadium like that."
SEQ Women's Division 1 grand final 2018 details
Burleigh Bears v West Brisbane Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast on Saturday, August 11 – 12.30pm
Live on FOX Sports (Channel 502) – tune in from 12.27pm.
1. Chante Temara 2. Tyler Birch 3. Keri-Jade Robertson 4. Amber Pilley 5. Tarnisha Lyons 6. Zahara Temara 7. Paige Rogers 8. Chelsea Lenarduzzi 9. Tayla Pilley 10. Josina Singapu 11. Jasmin Kemp 12. Tazmin Gray 13. Tallisha Harden (c) 14. Alysha Lee 15. Laken Paitai 16. Rebekah Shelford 17. Rona Peters 18. Katelyn Arona 19. Delwyn Fraser
Coach: Tahnee Norris
West Brisbane Panthers
1. Kazzia Lammon 2. Julia Robinson 3. Caitlyn Taleni 4. Lucy Lockhart 5. Sally Tuiala 6. Lana Sheedy 7. Bridget Smith 8. Kris Vaalepu 9. Patrice Chambers 17. Shen'e Clemments 11. Kate Haren 12. Annie Dufficy 13. Asipau Mafi (c) 14. Melissa Orcher 18. Ibara Waia 19. Keysha Roberts 21. Anahera Parata 22. Altamesa Fa'Asolo 23. Kateena Poppi-Kyle 10. Heather Ballinger
Coach: Craig Green