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Veterans v newcomers: How the BMD Premiership grand final is shaping up

Saturday’s BMD Premiership grand final is a battle of two women’s teams that come from two very different places.

The Burleigh Bears have been within the women’s game for over a decade, earning themselves a reputation as the “team to beat” with six premiership titles to their name, dating back to when the now BMD Premiership was just a humble southeast competition.

The Bears as a club are among the veterans.

The Wynnum Manly Seagulls, on the other hand, are the newcomers to the women’s game.

In just their second season in Queensland’s premier women’s competition, the Seagulls have flexed their muscle and made quite a statement, last week upsetting the competition leaders in Souths Logan to win their way into the premiership decider in stunning fashion.

With a number of experienced players in their squad - including Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons duo Julia Robinson and Emily Bass, and representative stars like Shaylee Bent, Shaniah Power and Brianna Clark - the fresh-faced women’s team are chasing their first ever title.

Whoever comes away with the trophy on Saturday at Logan Metro Sports Complex will be history makers.

And for Maroons coach Tahnee Norris – who also leads the Queensland Rugby League’s female pathways – this weekend’s grand final is reminiscent of a time when Burleigh were the newcomers and Souths Logan were the Goliaths of the women’s competition.

Norris, along with now Wynnum Manly winger Karina Brown and Burleigh team manager Vanessa Rogers, started the women’s team back in 2012, with the help of current Bears CEO Damian Driscoll.

Norris played for the first two years and then moved into coaching at the back end of the 2014 season.

“We weren’t successful straight up,” Norris said of the Bears.

Tahnee Norris. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL
Tahnee Norris. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL

“It was only Karina and I at that time that were part of the Jillaroos. It was a really young side. Zahara Temara was 17.

“They were babies back then and coming straight from the Nerang Roosters. Souths were probably the dominant side. They hadn’t dropped a game in years and were the side to beat.

“It was Karyn Murphy, Steph Hancock, Ali Brigginshaw, Renae Kunst… there were so many Jillaroos in that side.

“I remember when we won our first grand final and I was coaching… Zahara managed to kick two goals from the sideline that virtually won us the game and was a standout performer in that game.

“That started the belief and culture around that team.”

Road to Burleigh Bears and beyond: Zahara Temara

Burleigh won their first grand final in their fourth season in 2015 and went on to win again in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021, with Norris at the helm of all those victories.

Through those years, the Bears have helped produce a number of big name stars that play today in the NRLW, State of Origin and for the Australian Jillaroos, including Temara, Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Tazmin Gray, Tallisha Harden, Rona Peters and Tiana Raftstrand-Smith.

And beyond that, Burleigh now have players who are diehard Bears, like Tyler Birch – a “Bears player through and through”, according to Norris.

And it is these players she believes have helped form the culture at the Bears today and why they are so successful.

“We were the team to beat for years,” Norris said.

“We just built a side that culturally people wanted at the Burleigh Bears... we had so many good people there and good standards and the club were extremely supportive.

“It was always about having the best people around and the right environment to play in and I think that’s where the success has come from.

“In that time as a coach, it wasn’t about winning but about developing players and that was something I wanted to do as a coach, was to give back. Winning was the outcome from that.”

Scott Cooke took over from Norris as coach last year and has continued to build the culture that exists at the club, with this year’s squad featuring older heads like captain Temara, Lenarduzzi and Gray, but also introducing the next generation of players, including Rilee Jorgensen, Dannii Perese and Lily-Rose Kolc.

However, over at Wynnum Manly, while they don’t have the history behind them, they certainly have plenty of promise – just like Burleigh did all those years ago when they caused an upset to Souths Logan in the 2015 grand final.

Julia Robinson: 'If you fight for each other, that's how teams win'

The Seagulls have already defied odds in their way into the premiership decider, knocking out the undefeated Magpies in last week’s semi-final.

And the strong belief among the squad remains that they can do it again this weekend.

Norris said what was so powerful about Wynnum Manly was not just their experienced heads, but their very young spine.

With Sienna Lofipo and Jayde Herdegen in the halves, Destiny Mino-Sinapati at fullback and Emma Barnes at hooker, it’s a young group of teens leading the Seagulls around the park.

But Norris said they were a fearless group who would pose a massive threat come Saturday.

“There’s a lot of Wynnum girls that are just 18 and playing outstanding footy,” Norris said.

“They’ve got nothing to lose. They’re not afraid to stand up to players like Tazzie Gray. They just go out and play their best. That’s a really good attitude to have.

“They had two 18-year-olds sitting in the halves spots in the semi-final... Destiny Mino on fullback and Emma Barnes in No.9 in your key spine positions. You’re looking at 18-year-olds and that in itself is phenomenal.

“For what (coach Ron Troutman) is doing with that group and Steve Casey with the (Harvey Norman) Under 19s group, bringing them through, they’ve done a fantastic job from the start of the season to keep those girls together and playing good footy and gradually progressing.

“To be honest, I thought there would be an upset on the cards (last week). You could see them getting better and better each week and starting to get that real connection.

“Trouty and Steve have obviously done a good job with building the confidence level within those key spine players … that belief is there to go to that next level.”

The 2023 BMD Premiership grand final will be live and free on, Kayo Freebies and 9Now.

Acknowledgement of Country

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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