The Rugby League Gold Coast QTOP A Grade competition culminates this Saturday when the Burleigh Bears take on Southport Tigers at Pizzey Park.
Burleigh Bears have been the clear competition leaders since the beginning, finishing 11-points clear at the top of the ladder and becoming the first team to qualify for the grand final by defeating Currumbin two weeks ago.
They have maintained an unmatched standard of consistency throughout the season, losing just one game all year.
Outside observers will no doubt consider them the favourites, but coach Matt Foster – who coached the Bears to A Grade premiership glory in 2015 – said he and his team can’t worry about what anybody else expects of them.
“Being the favourite is for other people to worry about,” Foster said. “It is about what we do to win a game.
“The club holds this competition in high regard. It is massively important to put a good show on this weekend.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle standing in Burleigh’s way is the fact that they have barely taken the field in recent weeks.
The Bears were on a roll, winning their last five regular season games in consecutive weeks and scoring an average of 44 points a game, before a bye in the final week of the season.
Burleigh were then forced to sit out the first week of the finals thanks to finishing as minor premiers, before earning another week off after winning their qualifying final a fortnight ago.
“What will affect us is the lack of game time,” Foster said.
“We have played one game since the 18th of August. It will be a big task, with no momentum – so we need to build it.
“We will strive for a competitive game between what is now the two best teams in the competition.”
They face the Southport Tigers, who finished the year in second place and have impressed with gritty wins in the last two games.
A poor end to the regular season saw them drop their last three games as well as their home semi in the first week of finals.
It threw the Tigers into elimination finals first against Tugun and then Currumbin.
Both games were hotly contested and forced the Tigers to display some of their best traits to stay alive.
“We had a rough month, but full credit to the players for sticking it out,” Tigers coach Steve Dowd said.
“We have played two grand finals in a row (their semi-final wins) and this is our third.
“We will turn up – we are very excited. I have players who have been in this situation before and won premierships before. We will enjoy the week – we know what’s in front of us.”
This will be Southport’s first grand final appearance since they defeated Tugun 24-18 in the 2014 decider.
Led by club stalwarts Tu Whakatihi-Paikea and Drumayne Dayberg-Muir, both of whom were members of that 2014 premiership winning team, the Tigers will pack plenty of experience and firepower despite starting as underdogs.
Dowd, who coached the Tigers in 2014 as well as back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, expects the best from his team and knows Burleigh will produce as well.
“Burleigh are a great, well run club,” Dowd said. “They will be prepared well and (they) are very clinical – we need to match fire with fire.
“When we have played them, we have been in the contest but couldn’t go with them. We need to play for longer minutes as a team.”
The Rugby League Gold Coast grand final day will be hosted by the Burleigh Bears at Pizzey Park this Saturday September 21.
All games will be live streamed via the Rugby League Gold Coast Facebook page with the A Grade clash between the Bears and Tigers kicking off at 4pm.
The reserve grade grand final will feature Tugun taking on Mudgeeraba while Burleigh and Currumbin will contest the Under 20s final.
* Main image courtesy of Paul Goodman Sports Photography
Rugby League Gold Coast QTOP A Grade grand final team lists
Burleigh Bears v Southport Tigers – Saturday, September 21 at Pizzey Park - 4pm
1. George House 2. Te Mcdonald 3. Regan Muir Ogle 4. Caleb Anderson 5. Reece Tapine 6. Matt Egan 7. Connor Toia 8. Tyler Szepanowski 9. Jordon Scott 10. Reece Summer 11. Brett Stratton 12. Darius Farmer 13. Dylan Kelly 14. Luke Maiden 15. Samson Halatau 16. Tyler Sparkes 17. Ben Valeni
Coach: Matt Foster
1. Zoram Watene 2. Carlo Alimboyong 3. Lee Turner 4. Naz Monsall 5. Barry Ruttley 6. Campbell Pirihi 7. Drumayne Dayberg-Muir 8. Luke Polson 9. Jacob Pottinger 10. Nathan Young 11. Tu Whakatihi-Paikea (Captain) 12. Jaleel Seve-Derbas 13. Simi Ata 14. Liam Hampson 15. Dallas Donnelly 16. Lachlan Douglas 17. Corey Walker
Coach: Steve Dowd