Flashback: Sheppard inspires 2010 maiden title for Pride

In the lead up to the 2019 Intrust Super Cup grand final, Queensland Rugby League are taking a trip down memory lane and reliving several cracking deciders.The second in our series is the 2010 grand final, won by Northern Pride after a stunning late season surge to the title.

When you talk about rugby league revivals and comebacks it is hard to go past the Northern Pride’s stunning maiden Intrust Super Cup title in 2010.

Captain Chris Sheppard was on fire in the 30-20 win over Norths Devils in a premiership win that could only be described as "Lazarus with a quadruple bypass".

Mid-season the Pride were languishing at the bottom of the ladder after a thrashing from Sunshine Coast.

It was then rookie coach David Maiden launched "Operation Joel Riethmuller".

A fortnight later that "operation" went in to full swing and Pride went on a stunning 12-game winning run to the premiership.

"We got beaten by Sunshine Coast 64-0 when they were aligned with Manly and had Daly Cherry-Evans and that crew," Maiden recalled.

"That’s when we changed our attacking structures and defensive style. That defence was based around Joel Riethmuller who just went up hard and fast and belted anyone that got near him. Our line speed then improved as a team and the players bought into that.

"We were a smaller side but a mobile side. We were fit, fast and strong and we had strength and conditioner Scotty Callaghan, who is back at the Pride now, and he was very good at preparing a side physically. We decided to use the laws of physics and get as much momentum as we can and whack them as hard as we can.

"We had guys like Nick Slyney, Mark Cantoni, Ben Laity, Alex Starmer and Jason Roos [in the forwards] and in the outside backs there was Rod Jensen, Mick Bani, Brett Anderson…phenomenal players. We wouldn’t have won the competition without Chris Sheppard who was our on-field general."

After changing their defensive structures the Pride narrowly lost to Souths Logan the following week but from that moment on they were singing the team song for the rest of the year.

"We won 12 in a row to win it from that point. We were playing finals footy from mid-June because we couldn’t afford to drop a game," Maiden said.

"When we got to the grand final we had so much momentum and confidence in what we were doing that it never felt like we were going to lose."

Sheppard, a former Dragons and Cowboys half, was the master puppeteer in the decider and won the Duncan Hall Medal for setting up four of his side’s five tries.

A Sheppard inside ball put Noel Underwood over early. A Sheppard switch of play then found fullback Chey Bird who combined with Roos to send Jensen over out wide. Sheppard wasn't done. He next unfurled a cross-field kick for a flying Bani to score. Bird had his kicking boots on and the Pride led 18-nil in virtually as many minutes.

Wily Devils veteran Shane Perry sent back-rower Brendan Gibb over before the break but the Pride extended their lead to 24-6 just after half-time through a rampaging Rod Griffin. Perry unleashed Luke Samoa with a slick ball and Gideon Mzembe narrowed the Pride’s lead to 24-16 with half an hour to play to give Norths a sniff.

It was than man Sheppard again who sent Slyney over to seal the win despite a late try to Samoa after another crafty Perry kick.

Maiden said Sheppard, who had all the characteristics of a quality half, was the lynch-pin for his side and a player he learned plenty from.

"He was phenomenal for us although Shep was a bit of a pain in the arse to be honest," Maiden chuckled.

“Like all good halves he had an edge and he was cranky and irritable. You felt like he was questioning you all the time but the reality was that he knew far more about footy than I did as a first year coach. He’d been in NRL systems and was a very good on-field teacher. At our level he was too smart for everyone and a real leader."

The Pride had five-eighth Ryan Stig on board that year who missed the grand final with injury but played a key role in getting the side to the decider.

Maiden said he had taken over the coaching job at just the right time.

"Andrew Dunemann set up the club really well in terms of coaching structures and that allowed me to come in and take over fairly seamlessly," Maiden said.

"The club overall had been set up well by John O’Brien, John Moore and Denis Keeffe."

The majority of the players Maiden coached were local products and the Pride, who had reached the preliminary final and grand final in the first two years of their existence, continued their success in 2011 by making the semi-finals.

Maiden handed over to Jason Demetriou at the end of the 2012 season where the now South Sydney assistant took the Pride to the 2013 minor premiership before winning the minor premiership, premiership and NRL State Championship in 2014.

The 2010 grand final presentation had a humorous twist when Sheppard was presented with the winning Intrust Super Cup. A screw was loose and the top of the cup fell off.

"It fell on top of Shep and he caught it," Maiden chuckled.

Sheppard caught everything else that day as well, a fitting end to his career as a player.