Passion, hard work and an exceptional attitude has landed referee Tyson Brough the Hostplus Cup grand final.
The Queensland Rugby League High Performance Unit match official, “lost for words” at his appointment, will be joined by touch judges Dan Munroe and Jack Klein on Sunday.
Matt Gannon has been named to referee the Hastings Deering Colts grand final and will be joined by Cameron Wegner and Dylan Lawrence.
“When I found out, it was just relief… all the hard work from not just this year, but over the last few years to get back in this arena, it was just a relief and there was definitely a feeling of gratitude,” Brough said.
"Unreal feeling getting appointed to the grand final... honoured and very chuffed."
Brough brought up 150 Cup games in the middle in Round 14, at the time describing his officiating journey as one of ups and downs, thrilling highs and heartbreaking challenges. The grand final will be Cup game number 161 for him.
The last time he was involved in a Cup grand final was the 2019 decider between Burleigh Bears and Wynnum Manly Seagulls, assisting good friend Liam Kennedy when it was a two-referee system.
QRL state match officials manager Clayton Sharpe said Brough was a “valued senior member of the HPU and this season has excelled in a leadership role, both on and off the field”.
“Tyson was asked late last year to make some changes to his game and to his credit, Tyson accepted the challenge and through hard work and an exceptional attitude is now reaping the rewards,” Sharpe said.
“Tyson has performed very consistently this season, completing a tough Cup finals series, an NRL touch line appointment and culminating in the pinnacle for QRL match officials – a Hostplus Cup grand final appointment.”
Brough, who made his Cup debut in 2014 and ran his first NRL line is 2021, said his focus this year was to be better than ever before, which included taking things week-to-week, instead of getting ahead of himself.
“Whether you’re a player or a referee, you always want to be involved in finals footy and last year I didn’t get that opportunity,” Brough said.
“I had to go back and reflect on my performances and how I went about things… I obviously had to change some things if I wanted to be a chance to get back in that environment.
“That was my focus in the off-season and into this year… not getting caught up in what was coming up or what was or wasn’t happening… just focusing on what I can control and just being as good as I could be."
Brough said the standard across the Cup referees was exceptional – “there was a lot of people refereeing well” - so it was humbling to get the grand final.
“As weird as it sounds, it's been such a tough final series… I just made sure I could do everything I could… there was a lot of nervousness about whether or not I was good enough or for there to be ‘we’re happy with how you've gone’," he said.
“I just had to control myself and make sure I did the best job I could… getting the appointment took me back a bit. I’m pretty proud.
“Now I just have to stay calm, be present in the moment and enjoy it."
Match: Bears v Tigers
Grand Final -
Venue: Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
Brough said he was stoked for Colts referee Matt Gannon.
“He got his Cup debut this year and nailed it... and came into this Colts environment and was consistently good,” Brough said.
“It was just to that point where they just couldn't ignore him and for him to get that opportunity, it’s great. I think he’s going to be good.”
Sharpe said Gannon had performed consistently across the season, which led to him making his Cup officiating debut in Round 22.
“Matty is a casual character who goes about his business quietly… he has progressed through our junior reps program and is continuing to rise to challenges set for him,” Sharpe said.
Gannon said it felt “really good” to be appointed to the Colts grand final after a lot of hard work.
“It’s definitely something I’m proud of,” Gannon said.
“I worked really hard for it at the back end of this season. The Cup debut was something that I wasn't really expecting… it sort of came out of the blue a little bit but I was glad to get the opportunity and glad to get an opportunity this weekend as well.”
Gannon said he had been a touch judge in Cup throughout the year and worked with members of the HPU to improve.
“I’ve learned a fair bit off the current Cup referees, which helped me when I got back in the middle to referee and do some little things that they do to improve my game,” Gannon said.
“I had a lot of coaching from those Cup guys last year too when I was running in Colts every week."
Gannon said on Sunday he would “soak it all in and enjoy the experience”.
“Moving forward I just want to stay consistent and over the next few years get a fair few runs in and see what happens, see what happens from there,” Gannon said.
Match: Tigers v Blackhawks
Grand Final -
Venue: Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
To snap up your seats to the 2023 Hostplus Cup and Hastings Deering Colts grand finals, click here.
For more information on grand final day, click here.
The Hostplus Cup grand final will be shown live on Fox League and Kayo Freebies from 5pm.
The game will also be live on SENQ radio from 4pm with Drury Forbes, Andrew McCullough and Nathan Cross, with Sydney and Gold Coast taking the call from 6pm.