The Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup decider on Sunday brings together two teams and cities with history and a strong league pride.
The competition itself is named after one of the best to have played the game, and there is no doubt the Souths Logan Magpies will gain inspiration from the former Magpies, Queensland and Kangaroos great who excelled in grand finals, winning two competitions with Souths in 1981 and 1985.
Match: Blackhawks v Magpies
Grand Final -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
The Blackhawks will be able to draw on the achievements of one of Townsville’s favourite sons in Gene Miles, who won premierships in 1982, 1984 and 1986.
Coming into this weekend's decider, the Magpies were made to fight hard against Norths Devils last weekend, taking out the win late in the match.
The Magpies were able to count on their class at the end of the match, and they also made 48 tackle breaks which forced the Devils to defend their hearts out, with Norths making 65 more tackles than the Magpies.
In his first year coaching, Souths coach Karmichael Hunt has taken his side to a decider and knows how special grand finals are to players.
“I am just so proud of this group of men, they are representing the Magpies in a grand final that’s something to be proud of,” Hunt said.
“We need to respect the occasion, but know that we can’t be overawed; we have a job to do.”
Souths have reached the final by beating Norths with seconds to go last week; down of the scoreboard with the clock showing a minute to go - the Magpies seemed like one of the calmest teams in the world.
The side knew what to do, coolly going 80 metres up field and scoring in the corner to steal the win.
A team filled with talent, last weekend they were driven by Blake Mozer who is experienced in this competition and is yet to lose an Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup game in two years after winning the 2021 title with Tweed Seagulls.
“We have faith in our football and what we can do, so it’s just a matter of being calm and executing what we have to do,” Hunt said of his side's preparations for the big game.
“I was so proud of them, when Delacruz Ripley scored, I was so happy.”
Souths lock Chris Faagutu can’t wait for Sunday and more than played his role last week in gaining 144 metres for Souths.
“I am excited, we have spoken about the Blackhawks and I think we can find a few ways to expose their defence,” Faagutu said.
“They are a big team they test you, lots of block shape and we just have to ID it and be ready.
“Prepare the best we can and be ready to play Souths’ football on Sunday.”
Their opponents the Townsville Blackhawks are back in the grand final again after losing last year to Tweed Seagulls in a close game 30-24. However, only two players remain in Sean Bourke and Damon Marshall.
Coach Roy Baira said he was ready for the grand final challenge after beating the Sunshine Coast Falcons 38-14 in last weekend's semi-final.
“Souths are a very good team and play an exciting type of football. I think they’re the attacking team and we are the defensive team,” Baira said.
The Blackhawks have taken away some lessons from their finals game.
“We reset at halftime and talked about what was going wrong and fixed it in the second half, so that was pleasing,” Baira said.
“We are looking forward to coming down there and playing in the grand final.
“They have some very good players and we will have to stay awake to their middle.”
One Townsville player who will be keen to right the wrongs of 2021 will be captain Damon Marshall.
Marshall was a leader in every sense against the Sunshine Coast Falcons and made ground for Townsville and ended up 188 metres.
“I think our ruck will be important in defence and attack. Everything comes from there so we have to be really clean in everything we do,” Marshall said.
“Last year is in the back of my mind, but this is a whole new team and it’s only a couple of us that were there so it’s just about Sunday.
“I am excited and nervous, I just want to do my job and make sure I am performing how I said I would- that’s what a leader does.”
The match will be available to view on QPlus and Kayo Freebies.