Wests Panthers have beaten Past Brothers in their three rounds clashes this season, but those results will count for nothing when the arch-rivals square off again in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership qualifying final at Salter Oval on Saturday.
That game follows the elimination final at 3pm, where Hervey Bay Seagulls will battle it out with Waves Tigers, who have had the edge on them over the course of the year, but another epic duel is expected.
The Panthers kicked off the season in the best possible way by derailing Brothers’ title defence with a 46-22 first-round demolition of them back on March 27, and they also prevailed 26-18 on May 16, and 20-12 on June 26.
However, after a blazing start, Wests went through a lean patch, but they wound up second on the ladder, just one point behind minor premiers Easts Magpies, whom they edged out 22-20 in the last round a fortnight ago.
But they are without a few of their big guns in halfback and BRL rookie of the year Marcus Tanner and barnstorming second rower Lachlan Patterson, who are both in lockdown until Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions after both travelling to Brisbane last weekend.
They will also miss powerhouse forward Dan Tanner who has work commitments and star centre Sam Robinson, who is still not yet cleared to return from injury.
Vintage veteran Josh Tanner will fill his nephew Marcus’ big shoes, and while team coach and Marcus’ father Corey admits they will miss his son’s electrifying speed, he said Josh’s smarts in tandem with explosive five-eighth Caleb Tull would hold them in good stead.
Brothers finished third on the table, but they have won just seven of their 14 matches, and while they put it all together for the first time by ending the Magpies’ eight-match winning streak with a 38-22 ambush in the penultimate round, they limped into the play-offs with a last-start 26-8 defeat at the hands of the Tigers.
Hervey Bay also go into their sudden-death shoot-out in winning form after signing off with a 22-10 triumph over Wallaroos.
Ironically the Bay and Waves also crossed swords in the season in the competition opener, with the Seagulls plucking a 23-22 victory, but the Tigers roared 36-8 on May 16, with fullback Layton Chambers, who has had an outstanding season, amassing 20 points with two tries and six goals, and toughed out a 22-12 triumph on June 26 with Chambers again featuring with 10 points with a try and three conversions.
The Reserve Grade elimination and qualifying finals will be contested earlier in the day.