Grand finals leave a mark.
Win and your name is up in lights forever. Every player wants to be tagged a premiership player.
The Townsville Blackhawks and Brisbane Tigers will contest the last Hasting Deering Colts grand final at Kayo Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams have a chance to walk away with that tag following their name and the smile that goes with grand final success.
The Blackhawks are the reigning premiers - they wear the crown, and the Tigers are the challenger.
Match: Tigers v Blackhawks
Grand Final -
Venue: Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
According to the legends
John Lang is the Tigers' 'Mr September' and knows what his much-loved Tigers need to do on Sunday.
Lang played in three grand finals for Easts Tigers in 1972, 1977 and 1978. If that was not enough, Lang then coached the Tigers to premierships in 1983, 1991 and more grand finals in 1992 and 1993.
Lang would also take his finals expertise to Sydney, coach the Sharks and Panthers to a grand finale, and play in the 1980 grand final for the Roosters.
You wanted Lang wearing No.12 or holding the clipboard, when the sun was shining and getting warmer, Lang Park was packed and the crowd on the Hale Street side was squinting into the sun for a must win game.
In total, Lang played or coached in 10 grand finals in Brisbane and Sydney across his career.
"Grand finals are all about keeping it simple," Lang said.
"Every bit of experience you have as either a player or coach helps you next time you are in a similar position.
"I always went into a grand final with a belief in our team. If you do not have that, you are no chance."
While on the other side is one of Townsville’s favourite sons Gene Miles; Miles left Townsville to come to Brisbane and Grand Final success came for the big centre in 1982, 1984 and 1986.
Miles knows what it’s like for a Townsville kid to come to Brisbane and have grand final success and the smile and satisfaction that follows you forever.
In the 1980s you wanted the big hands of Miles carrying the ball one handed down the sideline and throwing basketball passes to unmarked wingers because you knew a fair chance those big hands would be lifting the trophy that afternoon.
“Always special to be playing in September after all the hard work you’ve put in throughout the year the alternative is watching from the grandstand or the couch on TV thinking 'if only we did this and that',” Miles said.
“1982 will always be special to me being Wynnum’s first ever first grade GF, and personally my first of three in the Queensland Winfield Cup.
“If I had a message for the boys from the 'Ville it would be, 'you’ve been playing against these teams’ week-in, week-out and winning games all year that’s why you are here playing in the last game of the season'.”
The pathway to the grand final
- This is probably as even as you can get for a grand final. The Tigers finished second and the Blackhawks third. The Tigers finished on 28 points, the Blackhawks 26
- Then when it came to finals the Tigers beat the Blackhawks week one 36-12 to earn a week off. While the Blackhawks went around the long way and came back beating the Falcons 44-30 and Tweed 24-12
- Meanwhile the Tigers beat the Dolphins in the preliminary final 36-14 to make the grand final
- This is the Blackhawks' third Colts grand final in a row. This is the first time the Tigers have made it past week one
Townsville recovered from a slow first half with plenty of errors to find a way against Tweed; 4-0 at half-time became 24-12 at full-time and it was the period from the 49th minute to the 73 minute that sealed the deal.
Fifty-three per cent of the ball and 77 per cent completion will win you big games. Seven line breaks and five tries will win you more.
Townsville has a swagger about them that only reigning premiers can have no matter the situation we have this and been there before.
The Townsville fullback is the captain, goal-kicker and try-scorer. Seventeen games in 2023, 14 tries, 76 goals at 74 per cent and 208 points, and 205 run metres against the Tweed Seagulls in a prelim. That’s big time.
Two tries in a prelim to go with his 51 in 37 Colts games for the Blackhawks - he’s a match-winner.
Fifteen games in 2023 and five tries; his best game was Round 10 against Northern Pride when he scored two tries for the Blackhawks.
Another two-try prelim player, Dotoi has 11 tries in 11 games in 2023.
Another try-scoring extraordinaire for the Blackhawks; two tries in week one of the finals showed his ability. Sixteen tries in 15 games for 2023.
Halves win grand finals; Hunter has guided the Blackhawks in 13 games in 2023 in his first year in the Colts.
In 2022 Lamont played four Colts games, as he watched the Blackhawks win the grand final. In 2023 15 games and back to a grand final.
Lamont: 'It would be great to be the last team to win it'
Fourteen games for the big front row in Colts in 23; add in three Cup games as well. Watch him go.
The young hooker hasn’t played a lot this season with six games for the Blackhawks but has scored two tries in those six games.
Played Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup for the Blackhawks in 2022, and this year has stepped up to Colts with 11 games. He’s also played five Cup games.
Another Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup graduate from 2022, Sullivan has played four Colts games in 2023 and six Cup games; as well as in the Queensland Under 19 side.
The Blackhawks wildcard, can run over blokes or around blokes - take your pick. Captained the Blackhawks to an Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup final already this year and played four Cup games.
Jack is in his third year of Colts and has played 25 games as well as 11 in 2023. Jack was the replacement player twice for the Blackhawks in Cup. Jack came off the bench in the 2022 grand final.
The hooker for the Blackhawks started from the bench against the Tweed Seagulls, 14 games in 2023 and a tackling machine. Forty tackles to top the tackle count from the bench is outstanding.
Eleven games in 2023 for the Blackhawks' Colts. His older brother Jake won the Colts last year with the Blackhawks. The Bourke family are back here again.
Eight games for the Blackhawks and a vital role coming off the bench during the finals.
The former Tiger Colt from 2021 and 2022 comes up against his old club - he’s played 13 games for the Blackhawks in 2023.
The Tigers won in week one against the Blackhawks then had the week off and beat the Redcliffe Dolphins 36-14 to reach the grand final.
The game against the Dolphins was tight until the Tigers put the foot down and blew the game apart. The Tigers just exploded in a attacking football frenzy.
Lachlan West scored twice and Simon Pratt scored his own double and it was all over.
Fifty-three per cent of the ball and similar to the Blackhawks 77 per cent completion. The Tigers worked the Dolphins over with 61 more tackles.
The Dolphins kept giving away penalties and eventually they went pop and the Tigers were there.
The battle of the fullback will be worth it. West has played three years of Colts and 46 games with an amazing 43 tries.
Fitzsimmons has only played three games this year but scored two tries.
Fourteen games in 2023 and two tries.
The Tigers’ centre is a match-winner with five tries in nine games.
Fourteen games and four tries in 2023 the Tigers winger is a genuine finisher.
Black pulls the strings for the Tigers and scores points. Sixteen games, five tries and 79 goals makes him the key for the Tigers.
Bailey Black: 'It would mean absolutely everything'
House is safe as a house. Fifteen games and the Tigers co-captain.
Is in his third year of Tigers Colts and has played 16 games for the Tigers this year and 35 games in total.
Seu-Easthope came across from Wynnum Manly to the Tigers and has played 14 games for the Tigers.
Morgan is the wild card in the Tigers deck the big forward has cut a path of destruction through everyone in 16 games.
Pratt is in his third year of Colts and played 43 games for the Tigers. Three tries in the final against the Dolphins was a great reward for the co-captain.
Fifteen games in 23 up from nine in 22 shows improvement and eight tries this year show he’s a real attacking weapon.
Another Tiger that’s played three years of Colts but has had a break out year with 13 games.
Chang has been coming off the bench for the Tigers and causing mayhem. Eleven games and three tries. He’s vital to the Tigers.
Sixteen games in 23 for Joe in his first year in Colts up from Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup in 2022.
Another Tiger development player with three years of Colts and Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup in 2020.
Twenty-nine games in Colts for the Tigers after playing for Victoria in 2021.
Words from the players
Tigers’ bench weapon Jackson Chang will come off the bench and try and keep the momentum going for the Tigers.
“I see my role as coming on and keep the intensity going from when the starters go off there can’t be any drop off,” Chang said.
“Blackhawks forwards have all played Cup and they get in position really well for Wavik to run amok. I am trying to keep it low key but it’s a grand final, it’s pretty exciting. This is why we play.”
Blackhawks second rower Will Sullivan is ready to right the previous wrongs of 2023.
“I see this as a chance to turn around the Under 19 Origin game which didn’t go to plan,” Sullivan said.
“I am looking forward to Sunday and the forward battle. The Tigers have a great pack and we have players that have experienced Cup this year so they’re coming back to Colts a lot better player.
“Sunday is a grand final and my first since Auswide Bank Mal Meninga; time to get the job done.”
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