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Emu Park prepare for emotion-charged finals

A journey through the ups and downs from a fledgling club to an A grade contender has been building to this moment for Emu Park Emus.

Both men's and women's sides have qualified for the Rockhampton A grade grand finals on Sunday - against Yeppoon Seagulls and Brothers respectively - and no matter the result, it's an achievement worth celebrating according to senior player Garrett Field.

The second rower said the belief and confidence in his side had slowly snowballed as the season progressed, peaking at the right time.

"In the back end of the year where it obviously counts we were starting to put all those connections and combinations together and that's probably the main driving force of why we've had a good run home," Field said.

"There's a fair bit of belief especially in the younger crew getting this far at the back end of the year and beating some of the teams that were sort of weren't expected to beat.

"So the confidence is building very quickly and to a high level of confidence leading into the grand final at the right time."

For many team members, their motivation will be honouring Madasa Iosefa, the former NRL hooker who had a profound impact during his short time at the club before he passed away in a tragic accident in January 2021.

His image adorns the change rooms at their Hartley St home, providing inspiration in their most difficult times.

"Once Masada sort of come about, he took the club to another level and then obviously there was the incident where he'd passed away," Field said.

"We just finished playing Rocky carnival, we played five games of footy with him over a weekend and then two days later we found out he's passed away.

"It was a pretty rough. We've got his picture in there in the change rooms and he's always on the shirts and the jerseys and what not just because he was a special part of the club, especially for what he used to do around the club with the kids out of his own time."

Many members of the women's side are equally motivated to "bring it home for Masada" according to Emus lock Tiarn Smith.

"He was a player a brother, a friend and a coach, and he sadly passed away," Smith said.

"A lot of the club's core people were really close with him.

"And if you ever go into our dressing sheds, there's a big painting of him up in there, so I know some of our people are playing for him as well.

"I think it would be a really big thing for the club to not only bring it home for our club, our community but also for Masada and his family as well.

"He was a very big part of the club."

Smith said the team was confident and would feel fresh after a week off waiting to see who would be their opponent - which would be an advantage coming up against a formidable Brothers side.

Emu Park A grade women after qualifying for the decider. Photo: Boothy's Action Photo Art
Emu Park A grade women after qualifying for the decider. Photo: Boothy's Action Photo Art

"Brothers have always been a tough competitor for us. I'm feeling pretty confident going into it, but I think it'll just come down to who really shows up on the day. We're both really tough teams," Smith said.

A premiership would also be a rewarding individual feat for Smith, who missed all of last season due to an ACL tear.

Meanwhile Field, 37, will be tasked with helping an otherwise youthful A grade men's side balance their emotions with executing in the contest at hand.

Over his career he has won grand finals in the NSW Group 11 competition at Orange CYMS in 2011 and in his much younger days at Yeppoon Seagulls - coincidentally their opponents this weekend - but learnt plenty of lessons in his fair share of defeats.

Action from the men's A grade preliminary final - Brothers v Emu Park. Photo: Boothy's Action Photo Art
Action from the men's A grade preliminary final - Brothers v Emu Park. Photo: Boothy's Action Photo Art

But Field said his side was brimming with confidence at the right time of the season and with most players having shaken off injury niggles, Emu Park was in the perfect place to capture a maiden A grade premiership.

"I've been around a fair bit in the way of rugby league," he said.

"I've been through tough times, I've been in the big games, I've lost the big games, I've won the big games and I know, I guess what's sort of preparedness is needed guide these young fellas or to help guide these young fellas through the mental approach to the game.

"The physical side is fine, but at the end of the day it comes back to whether you're mentally prepared for the battle for 80 minutes."

And if it doesn't happen - for the first time since the club's A grade entry in 2015 - it will soon.

"It's a credit to the fellas and the women that have stuck in there and gone through those tougher times and been part of building a new club for senior rugby league.

"It does take time. You can't just put together a team overnight and expect to win and because the community is so small, we did struggle with numbers.

"It's taken this long to build that consistent sort of flow on effect of younger crew coming through and supporting those senior teams.

"So I think from here on in regardless of the outcome on the weekend, we're probably in pretty good stead over the next few years anyway."

Main image: Emu Park beat Brothers last weekend to reach the grand final. Photo: Boothy's Action Photo Art

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