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Community corner: The great XXXX League Championship debate

The battle for A grade community rugby league supremacy hits Logan Metro Sports Complex this weekend as Brisbane Red takes on Cairns in the XXXX League Championship final.

So for this week's 'Community corner', we've gone to two people with close ties to each camp to talk up their chances in the decider, which will be available to watch live and free on on Saturday from 6pm.

Let's hear from QRL North's Cairns area manager Jodi Stevens and QRL South East region manager Scott Dunshea about what promises to be an entertaining match-up.

XXXX League Championship Q&A

So Jodi, what makes you think Cairns will take the title home this weekend?

JS: We feel we're pretty fortunate, we've got a great blend of youth and experience and a squad of players that are genuinely excited to be representing their region and their clubs. We feel we have a really well-balanced squad that will, at the very least, compete hard at every turn and with the added class of former Dally M and Man of Steel winner, Ben Barba, we think he'll help us get there.

And Scott, Brisbane will be the hunted as usual. How do you think that will sit with them, and why does your side have what it takes?

SD: I don't know whether we'll be the hunted. We're the underdogs coming in here. It's the QRL North region that holds the title, right? I think that's kudos to them and it's something that the South East region is trying to wrestle back. I think that will be quite challenging, but within our group we've probably had the advantage to play some more footy together, being that we had to play the semi-final this year, whereas Cairns got that direct route by the region being the champions last year. While we've had a number of changes from the original XXXX Chairman's Challenge carnival with Gold Coast and Ipswich, I think there's a core group of players that have been able to play a little bit of time together as well. I think that'll be fairly advantageous in that space to build up some combinations that they've done over a period of time and now hold them in good stead for the game on the weekend.

Going back to you Jodi, what would it mean for the Far North Queensland region to earn the crown of XXXX League Championship winners?

JS: I think it'd be really good for our region. We do lose a lot of our players, especially the juniors, to the southern areas through schooling and just after school, so there's probably a perception of limited opportunities in FNQ. We've just had our recent success with our under 17 girls in the North Queensland championships and with three teams now competing in the Aaron Payne Cup, we want to keep growing our participation rate. So I think a win will reinforce that players don't need to move away and can stay here and perform well.

Cairns won the XXXX Foley Shield in May. Photo: Dom Chaplin/QRL
Cairns won the XXXX Foley Shield in May. Photo: Dom Chaplin/QRL

Scott, why is it important for Brisbane to be recognised as the best A grade competition in the state with this title?

SD: I think it'd be good to get the crown back. We won it two years ago in its inaugural year and we didn't make the final last year with Gold Coast going through from this region. Our Brisbane competition can be regarded as one of the stronger competitions outside of the Hostplus Cup competition, albeit we dilute our talent by picking two teams to go to the XXXX Chairman's Challenge carnival and we separate our teams as effectively as we possibly can. So I think it would highlight the depth that we do have in our competition. It's a great opportunity for a lot of young players who aren't on contracts with statewide competitions clubs that are only playing local premier grade football to showcase their talents and it'll be really good for the region to see those young guys on the biggest stage they possibly can play at the moment at this level.

Back to you Jodi, tell us about the showstoppers on the Cairns side who will make the difference?

JS: I don't think he can go past Ben Barba. He's still a very quality player and he's shown that this season playing for Mossman-Port Douglas, but to help him do his job better he's got good forwards in the experience of Aidan Day and Davin Crampton, the captain, so they will help (Barba) do his job.

Scott, who should be looking forward to watching most on the Brisbane side?

SD: It depends on how you want to watch the game. To Jodie's point there, you can certainly have your outside backs and their dynamic and spectacular performance that people see that are fantastic, but I think that the work of the forward pack will do the most to control possession throughout the game. A guy like Dilbert Issac has played international football and I think that someone like him will be paramount to the result at the end of the day. And if I was to talk to someone in the outside backs, I'd point probably to Hayden Herbert, the halfback, who was the man of the series there at the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. I think he'll be the key directing the team around the park. He has a good kicking game, controls the game and so forth and will go a long way to the to getting the result.

Hayden Herbert at the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL
Hayden Herbert at the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL

Who are the hidden gems you think we'll see step up?

SD: Savaan Tahere from Wynnum Manly Juniors is someone that's really come to the fore with his games at the two carnivals we've been at. He's come off the bench as a replacement hooker, but whenever he has come on he's really livened up the team and performed very well. Since the XXXX Chairman's Challenge carnival at Ipswich a couple of months ago, he's taken that form back to the local league and really performed admirably in that period of time and his skill set around the ruck and ability to create opportunities is something that's been very advantageous for the team. So I think he's a guy that can create a lot of impact coming off the bench.

Savaan Tahere at the XXXX Chairman's Challenge
Savaan Tahere at the XXXX Chairman's Challenge

JS: We've got a couple of promising young ones in Jason Hallie and Gabriel Tunimakubu. They're both 18-year-olds that have stepped up to A grade this year. They're both props, both big boys. They're some dark horses and then of course we've got the two Yarrabah players in Zach Mossman and Ammiel Harris who just play that free-wheeling style of football and can play in multiple positions and when they want to turn it on, they'll really turn it on.

And Scott, Brisbane Red will have home ground advantage at Logan Metro Sports Complex. How important is that going to be?

SD: Hopefully we do garner a bit of support. We've scheduled a couple of open men's semi-finals on the day as well to hopefully try to create a little bit of atmosphere there as well. It certainly is an advantage, to a point, that we're not the ones traveling. I certainly think that does help and it's obviously a big trip for the guys from Cairns to come down and play on the one day, but we've also accommodated them in that sense of putting the game on as late as possible to give them that time to recover from the travel and get ready for the game, so I don't see it being a, a massive advantage whatsoever.

Logan Metro Sports Complex looking a treat. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL
Logan Metro Sports Complex looking a treat. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

The travel could be hard, but Jodi, do you think Cairns will be able to turn that into a positive?

JS: Certainly Brisbane probably has a little advantage that they don't have to travel, but for our guys that have given up the time to travel and to train with their own clubs, who have got club games this weekend in Cairns, to come to Brisbane, I think it's going to bring them closer together and they're looking forward to representing all the people up here. I think the travel is just a small part.

The coaches of both sides have done a fantastic job with both of these squads. Scott, tell us about Darren Ferricks and how he's been able to get Brisbane Red here.

Darren Ferricks after claiming the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL
Darren Ferricks after claiming the XXXX Chairman's Challenge. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL

SD: Darren's a very experienced coach. He's spent some time in with statewide competitions clubs - with Northern Pride and also with Wynnum Manly - and he's also been a local coach in the A grade competition for a long time, successfully winning a premiership a couple of years ago with Wynnum Manly Juniors. So he's very experienced and knows the guys really well. He's had his challenges. While we have a number of statewide competitions clubs in our area, that presents us challenges around training and so forth where the guys haven't had a lot of opportunity to train together, but in a short amount of time that they have been together, Darren's been able to bring the group together quite quickly, and get them on the same page and playing the way that he wants them to play, and they've really bought into his philosophies. Being able to galvanize that group and connect with the group in a short space of time, it's a big credit to not only Darren but also the team that and support staff that are around Darren at the moment. He's really looking forward to the opportunity to coach on the weekend and hopefully get the win for Brisbane.

And Jodie, what's Jono Zangrande done so well to have this team in this position?

JS: I think Jono and his staff, they've selected a great team of players again this time. They were all in the original XXXX Foley Shield win bar two, so he's kept them together and basically just given them simple instructions that they can carry out well, and then play their own ad-lib style of football that we all like watching up here. So the players have been able to bring in their own styles, but they all seem to complement each other.

How satisfying would it be to beat Brisbane?

JS: Very, very. We went in as the underdogs against Townsville and won the XXXX Foley Shield, so with the experience that we've got in the side, we believe we'll bring it home.

What are your predictions on the score and how the game will play out?

SD: I think that the score line might be close, but I think that there could be some quite a few points scored within the game. Cairns obviously have (Barba) and Davin Crampton and so forth there, so there's quite a lot of attacking ability there and there will be quite a number of points scored. I predict that hopefully Brisbane win by eight. The weather's going to be nice and clear and fine and the track should be pretty fast, so there won't be any excuses to stop us seeing a good quality game of football being played between both teams.

JS: I think Cairns will get up. I agree with Scott that there will be a high number of tries scored. I reckon Cairns will get up 28-26.

Catch the XXXX League Championship final 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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