The week of the XXXX League Championship grand final has arrived.
The Gold Coast Vikings will fly up this Saturday to take on Townsville in a battle of South East versus North.
Queensland Rugby League’s Gold Coast area manager Brendon Lindsay and Townsville area manager Kerri Ritchie share their thoughts - and some fun and friendly banter - with community content producer Rikki-Lee Arnold on the upcoming clash, in their own battle of South East versus North.
RA: Brendon, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Vikings in action after they took out the XXXX Chairman’s Challenge in the first weekend of May. How have they been preparing over the past few months and are they up for the task?
BL: The team are really looking forward to the weekend and the opportunity to represent the Gold Coast in this final against a very strong Townsville side. Team preparation has been taking shape this week with three training sessions and Forbsey (coach Wayne Forbes) has been busy working with his staff to accommodate eight changes from the team that played in May. These have come about through Hostplus Cup promotion, injuries and overseas departures, so it will be a very different team to the one that played in the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. That being said the guys will be fit and ready to give it their best and enjoy the test against Townsville.
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RA: Kerri, Townsville have had quite a different path to the final. They were crowned XXXX Foley Shield champions in May and then beat Rockhampton quite convincingly in the XXXX League Championship semi-final last month. How are they looking ahead of Saturday?
KR: Townsville is happy with the squad that played in Rockhampton and have pulled through with no injuries. They are fit, ready and eager to take on the Gold Coast Vikings, with a full contingent of the best players representing Townsville. They had an opposed session with our Hostplus Cup side this week and then will have a captain's run at RLDT grounds on Friday night, with lots of juniors watching on. We have had posted printed up for the juniors, so they can line up to get the players' autographs. Brendon, I’ll organise one for you to take back to the Gold Coast and put up in your office. I’ll wait until after the game though so I can write Townsville’s winning scoreline on it.
BL: Could we also facilitate an agreement between North chairman Leigh Anderson and South East chairman Brian Canavan along these lines? South East versus Northern - if Townsville win BC wears the Northern colours to the next QRL board meeting. If Gold Coast win, Leigh wears South East's orange. Also, I have no response to Kerri’s below-the-belt comments. Next question please, Rikki-Lee.
RA: Looking forward to seeing the poster, Kerri, and intriguing proposal there for our two chairmen, BL. I’ll put it to them. In the meantime Brendon, a lot has been made about Townsville’s team, co-coached by Queensland Maroons legend Matt Bowen and Townsville great Roy Baira. It’s packed with Townsville Blackhawks players and a number of names we have seen at the Hostplus Cup level before. From the outside looking in, what threat do you think Townsville poses to Gold Coast?
BL: They have some real talent across the park that I have no doubt will come to play an open brand of footy. Against Rockhampton (in the XXXX League Championship semi-final) they started extremely fast which saw them post quick points. The threat for the Vikings is that if this occurs again, Townsville will be hard to stop, especially with players like Edene Gebbie and Carlin Anderson finishing off their movements. Gold Coast will need to match the enthusiasm of the Townsville side early to combat this and take any hometown support out of the equation. And if I do end up bringing a Townsville poster home, Kerri, can you get Matty Bowen to sign it as well please? What a legend.
KR: BL, I’ll get you a Matty Bowen autographed poster anyway! Could probably even arrange a photo too, if you like.
RA: Feels like BL is going to walk away a winner regardless of the result. In some breaking news, we've had responses from Leigh Anderson and Brian Canavan in regards to the bet. A bit like when the Queensland and New South Wales Premiers had their State of Origin bet and the Harbour Bridge went up in maroon lights thanks to our mighty Queensland Maroons. So, what do we think? Are we on board, gentlemen?
LA: I am not a person that goes too early with outcomes that are out of my control, but I will go along with the banter for this coming weekend. Regardless of the outcome, the wearing of a polo at a face-to-face board meeting would not be normal procedure... I hope Brian will be fine with this.
BC: Looks like peer pressure here. Count me in. Besides, polos are far more comfortable.
RA: The challenge has been set. Can't wait to see the photos from that board meeting. Now, back to Kerri - what threats do you think the Gold Coast team pose to Townsville?
KR: Oh, do Gold Coast have a team? Okay, just kidding! Townsville definitely know the game won’t be a walk in the park. The Gold Coast have a few Hostplus Cup-contracted players, plus a couple who have been in NRL systems before, like halfback Zane Harris and Brock Hamill coming off the bench. While Townsville look strong on paper, it’s anyone game come Saturday.
BL: Agree with Kerri that it is anyone’s game. But I feel Townsville may have the upper hand.
RA: That's an interesting statement, BL... going for the underdog tag, are we? Queenslanders do love an underdog.
BL: Yes, we do! But in this case, it's not on purpose Rikki-Lee, that is for sure.
RA: Next question then - what are the biggest strengths in your own team?
BL: I am going to mention a couple of people, the first being our staff led by Wayne Forbes and Simon Lyons. Their approach to this year's program has been great. They are very proud Gold Coast people who know what this tournament means for players and the community. They have been respectful to the local competition clubs and the other commitments our players have, creating a balanced environment while also instilling a confidence and pride within this squad that has them ready to compete. A player I have enjoyed watching this year is Keanu Te Kiri. He is a player who has some x-factor about him. He has an ability to come up with the right plays at the right time, so here's hoping he has a cracker of a game. If Gold Coast win - which is going to be a big ask - he is my tip for man of the match.
RA: And same question for Townsville, Kerri?
KR: A big strength for the Townsville team is that they are a pretty close group. Over the past four years the players have grown together, competing in the local competition, and from that a majority have moved up into the Blackhawks Hostplus Cup system. The XXXX Challenge is another step for them to perform and do well for Townsville, the North, and themselves as a group. They are all passionate players and passionate about Townsville. Players that have been our strengths and will lead us again this Saturday are the halves Ty Carruci and Ado Waianga, with Oscar Carter and Curtis Dempsey through the middle. Our x-factors are Edene Gebbie and Carlin Anderson, who are the most likely to break the game open for the Townsville men.
RA: Well, thank you both for an interesting and lively chat. Let's end it with some predictions. What are you tipping come Saturday?
BL: A golden point finish. Gold Coast win with a field goal from my man, Keanu.
KR: Townsville by eight. Best of luck to both teams - I am sure it’s going to be a really great game.
BL: So the only thing we need by the looks of it is a nine-point head start! Thanks all and look forward to catching up with you all up there.
The XXXX League Championship grand final will be held at Neil Stewart Park in Townsville from 4pm on Saturday, July 30.
The match will be broadcast live and free on Qplus.tv and Kayo Freebies from 3.50pm.