The Rugby League Gold Coast QTOP A Grade finals series begins this weekend with Southport hosting Currumbin and Tugun taking on Runaway Bay.
The second-placed Tigers will host Currumbin Eagles with a spot in next week’s grand final qualifier against minor premiers Burleigh on the line.
It’s an intriguing game, given both sides had some stumbles heading into the semi-finals.
Southport - who have been firmly entrenched in second place for the vast majority of the season - dropped their last three games against finals opponents Burleigh, Tugun and Runaway Bay.
It has been far from an ideal preparation, but the Tigers have shown their class time and again throughout the year.
Steve Dowd, a Gold Coast A Grade premiership winning coach many times over, has all the necessary experience to get his team back to top form when it matters.
“We are there to win – 100%,” he said. “We are classing it as a do-or-die game. I know we get another bite, but we want to win.
“We had an improvement in our last game against Bay (and) the boys are training well. Their attitude is correct, I can’t fault that.”
Currumbin had a better run in, securing wins over Tugun and Runaway Bay, but were upset by the Bilambil Jets in the final regular season round.
“We have probably both had one eye on this coming weekend for a while,” Eagles coach Ryan Gundry said.
“Finals are a different game with a different consequence and Southport would be confident knowing they’ve beaten us three times this year.”
Gundry also spoke about treating the game with Southport as do-or-die, knowing that facing Tugun or defending champions Runaway Bay will be a difficult proposition in week two.
The elimination final at Tugun’s Boyd Street takes place on Saturday afternoon and shapes as a spectacle.
With a draw and two wins in their last four games, the defending premiers have found some of their best form in recent weeks.
They have been hit hard by injuries for much of their title defence but have found some cohesion and consistency and are a dangerous proposition coming from fifth.
“We will be taking a relatively young side into the finals (but) we have had a couple come back, which has been really noticeable over the last month,” Bay coach Nick Gleeson said.
“Tugun have had a lot of experience playing in finals and have a lot of big game players.
"When we have played them in the past, we have jumped out to a strong start, and they have come back. We need to play the full 80 minutes.”
Tugun are an institution when it comes to finals in the local competition. They enjoyed a remarkable run that saw them contest every grand final between 2011 and 2016 and they are a side that is never truly beaten until the final whistle.
“We have had three very tight games with (Bay) this season,” Tugun coach Clint Barends said.
“They have been good games to play in – the boys enjoy tight games. Bay are last year’s premiers, and they will turn up for a big game.
“We need to do the best we can do on the day and leave nothing in the tank. It is a wide-open comp and it could be anyone's.”
Minor premiers Burleigh have the weekend off and will play the winner of Southport and Currumbin, while the loser will play the winner of Saturday’s elimination final.
Rugby League Gold Coast QTOP A Grade semi-finals week 1 team lists
Tugun Seahawks v Runaway Bay Seagulls - Saturday, August 31 at Boyd St - 3pm
1. Corey Morris 2. Troy Canning 3. Kurtis McDonald 4. Tim Cassidy 5. Sami Latu 6. Jacob Grant 7. Sam Meskell 8. Josh Harvey 9. Will Johnstone 10. Nick Harrold 11. Rob Apanui 12. Rory Lillis 13. Ethan Roberts 14. Levi Norton 15. Jordan Aiono 16. Macauley Dawson 17. Paul Sheedy
Coach: Clint Barends
Runaway Bay Seagulls
1. John Mackin 2. Daniel Kelly 3. Ben Fritz 4. Dylan Pelo 5. Jake Powell 6. James Poland 7. Matthew Canning 8. Doryaan Hape-Apiata 9. Jenan Wedderburn-Parrish 10. Taniela Palavi 11. Darcy Sims 12. Steve Tolo 13. Daymeric Pelo 14. Jack Doran 15. Kimihia Pakpaki-Hemopo 16. Jovahn Te Aroiti 17. Allan White
Coach: Nick Gleeson
Southport Tigers v Currumbin Eagles - Sunday, September 1 at Owen Park - 2pm
1. Carlo Alimboyong 2. Simione Ata 3. Jack Conlan 4. Drumayne Dayberg-Muir 5. Dallas Donnelly 6. Lachlan Douglas 7. Tevita Folau 8. Liam Hampson 9. Damian Mills 10. Naz Monsall 11. Dexter Moroney 12. Denzal Ngati 13. CAMPBELL Pirihi 14. Jacob Pottinger 15. Luke Polson 16. Ronin Rio 17. Barry Ruttley
Coach: Steve Dowd
1. Bayley Gill 2. Bayley Desmond 3. Jake Gleeson 4. Blake Morrison 5. Ken Allison 6. Dan Mortimer 7. Phil Ramage 8. Stuart Mason 9. Josh Campbell 10. Jarrod Gill 11. Mike Gray 12. Kurtis Dark 13. Harry Wecker 14. Liam Donnelly 15. Harrison Burling 16. Liam Thompson 17. Pele Peletelese
Coach: Ryan Gundry
Final ladder standings
|5||Runaway Bay Seagulls||55||44|