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Trigger and Tommy determined to break grand final hoodoo

Formidable West Brisbane Panthers duo Craig 'Trigger' Ingebrigtsen and Tommy Butterfield are determined to finish the year on a high.

The Panthers coach and star player know all too well the pain of losing big grand finals and both are determined not to feel that pain again. 

Ingebrigtsen, retiring after this year's Brisbane's In Safe Hands grand final, lost three Intrust Super Cup grand finals as coach and Butterfield has lost four Cup grand finals as a player.

Both are confident heading into their clash against Wynnum Manly at Pathion Park on Saturday at 4pm. 

The Panthers, who have been in the preliminary finals for the past three years but missed out on the big dance each year, booked their spot in the grand final - their first in 27 years - with a hard-fought 42-16 win over minor premiers and fellow Norths Devils feeder club Valleys at the weekend. 

"Cross-town rivals, us and Valleys, go at it pretty hard... so it was a really good game of footy," Ingebrigtsen said.

Trigger after the Valleys win. Photo: Vanessa Hafner
Trigger after the Valleys win. Photo: Vanessa Hafner

"There's a fair bit of rivalry but it's friendly rivalry. Valleys were the best side, other than Wynnum, all year... so to beat them and beat them the way we did, that's the most pleasing thing.

"Tom Butterfield was just in a class of his own. He was way too good. I'm so proud of that old man. He was outstanding. For him to be playing in another grand final is so good... it's a credit to him, our whole footy club and all of the other boys.

"I was exceptionally proud of our performance, it was our best performance of the year."

Ingebrigtsen said there was "a lot more excitement around this week", noting Wynnum Manly were a different beast to Valleys.

"We earnt the right to do this...  it's really exciting. But from a planning perspective, we're doing the same things. I am one of those process-driven people, so I want to make sure we work really hard during the week to get the right outcome," Ingebrigtsen said. 

"Wynnum are really powerful in their middle. You've got three blokes who have played NRL in their footy side... and that's what's so good about this competition. Luke Bateman has played 70-odd NRL games... he's a really good footballer and they'll get a lot of speed off the back of their middle core players, so we've got to be really good in our middle. 

"If we're good in our middle and we can match them there, it's going to be game on. But if we're not, it's going to be a really tough day for us. 

"The exciting thing about it is we get another challenge and we're going to have to be good for this challenge."

Ingebrigtsen, adding he had won two grand finals - one as Colts coach at Wests in 2008 and one as the FOGS A Grade coach in 2009 - said if the Panthers won Saturday, he would consider his tally levelled up at three grand final wins and three grand final losses. 

Trigger celebrating in the sheds. Photo: Vanessa Hafner
Trigger celebrating in the sheds. Photo: Vanessa Hafner

"To be honest, Wests is the place I started at and it's the place I love the most. I'll be really honest about that. In my whole journey, I just feel really comfortable at this place. When you play and coach at Wests, it's a real different sort of spirit," Ingebrigtsen said. 

"It's mud and blood... it's a very tough place to be because you don't get a lot of favours, you don't have the facilities other people have. We enjoy doing it tough and that's what we build our footy on, being a bit ruthless. 

"We're looking forward to playing on the weekend. We know we're playing against a quality football side, well coached. We know we're up against it, but we won't die wondering."

Ingebrigtsen, who has been a rugby league coach for 25 years including six years in the Cup and Wests before that, said he was looking forward to hanging up his coaches hat.

"I definitely am... my wife is very happy," Ingebrigtsen said. 

"She's been a massive supporter of mine, but there comes a time where you want to go and do different things in life. Give back to her. I am really comfortable with that decision. It's a tough decision, because it's been my life for a long time, but I am actually really looking forward to life outside of rugby league.

"The biggest highlight for me has been watching young men become men, become adults, and actually watching them have children and get married. 

"People want to talk about your journey and what you've achieved, but for me, it's watching Tommy Butterfield's first boy Manix and now watching his newborn Eddie. That, for me, that's a fantastic achievement. 

"On the footy field, playing in three Cup grand finals has been great. That's an achievement... I know a lot of other coaches wouldn't get that opportunity, so I'm blessed to have had that opportunity.

"And when we went to Papua New Guinea and lost to the Hunters 34-4 in 2016 only to return the following week for a knock-out semi-final and win 18-12. 

"But watching young men have children, get married and become really good adults in society has been the biggest thing for me."

Ingebrigtsen said he was not 100 per cent sure about what he would do next, but youth work and travel were definitely on the agenda. 

"I'm just excited about the next part of my life journey to be honest," Ingebrigtsen said. 

Butterfield, who has known Ingebrigtsen since he was seven, said there was not one player at the Panthers who would not put in 100 per cent for a coach they all admired. 

Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"It would be amazing to win the grand final.... BRL being stacked with Intrust Super Cup players, it'd be pretty big," Butterfield said. 

"Just not having won one, it'd be a really good feeling to finally get there... to finish the year on a high.

"It has been a really fun year... being able to have the pre-season with Sunshine Coast Falcons really put me in good stead compared to last year. I felt a lot fitter, stronger and mentally I was ready to play and that showed in my performance.

"But as a team, we've played for each other all year. We probably weren't a team many people thought would be in the position we are."

Butterfield said he was confident the Panthers could "definitely, definitely" claim the title against Wynnum Manly. 

"Wynnum have beaten us this year. They knocked us out last year... they've always got good structures in place. They're just a team that's good at a grinding type of game. So for us, we've got to match it, similar to how we played against Valleys. We need a good start and we need to defend really well," Butterfield said. 

"James Flack has been really good on the edge for us. Obviously Sam Burns has been fantastic for us since coming down from Sunshine Coast as well. He's definitely a player who is going to play lots of Cup and hopefully get a start somewhere in the NRL system... I think he's definitely good enough.

"Gerard McCallum, it has been great to see him come back from injury, considering I played in the game where he broke his tibia and fibula, down near his ankle. To see him come out and play this year has been great. Jack Walters has been outstanding this year. 

"I think across the board, we've had some really good players."

Butterfield said "for us, it's just about giving back to such a great club and to all of the supporters who have been there for such a long time".

Butterfield in action. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Butterfield in action. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"We've got an opportunity on Saturday and it's about us being able to play. I think we definitely have a team to put a good performance in," Butterfield said.  

"And obviously send Trigger out on a high. He's probably the best coach I've ever had. He's the best coach to get the best out of players and that's shown by the amount of players he has coached who have gone on to play NRL. 

"He just knows the game and just knows what to say to get the best out of players. He's all about doing everything you can for each other, being a team, trusting each other. He's one-of-a-kind. That's why we'll go out and play for Trigger."

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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