For Brisbane Tigers prop Tristan Powell, playing in the Hostplus Cup grand final is a dream come true after he missed the back end of last year with the Burleigh Bears through injury.
Whilst he is on the opposing side this year - after joining the Melbourne Storm, affiliated with the Tigers - playing with and against good mates is what it’s all about for him.
“I’m stoked,” he said.
“We've been a little bit up and down all year but really stuck to our guns in the finals and we're starting to play some really good footy at the right time of the year.
“We’re all feeling good and it's exciting. It’s really exciting to go up against Burleigh.”
Powell said to get the win would “mean everything”, after he missed the finals when he was with the Bears.
He said he was sidelined after “doing my PCL ligament in my knee” a few weeks out from finals. It was an injury that put him out for six weeks.
“I was gutted watching the final series last year… knowing I was leaving, it was pretty gutting,” Powell said.
“I was pretty unlucky last year with injury, so I missed the main finals with the team when we went down to Redcliffe in a prelim. I would’ve just missed the grand final if we were to make it, but we fell short.
“It would mean everything now that I'm fit and healthy and ready to go and we really have a side that can contest for this final. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Goondiwindi Junior Rugby League product said for him, rugby league was all bout the friendships made and fostered along the way.
“I know it's very cliche but some of my best mates, all of my best mates, are rugby league players that I've met through footy… there’s friendship, connection and a sense of belonging… everyone belongs in football no matter who you are and you make some of your best lifelong friends through it,” Powell said.
“That keeps me coming back… and obviously from when I was young, I've always had the dream to play NRL… that keeps me hungry and focused to hopefully one day get there.”
The 22-year-old said the Tigers squad – including those signed to Storm - had really bonded throughout the year, which was part of the reason for their success.
“I feel like we've bonded together really well and with the culture, we're really close off the field, not just on it… that goes a long way in being successful,” Powell said.
“On the field, we've got some strike players that we all work hard for, to let those players show off that brilliance.
“I think the main one who's had a cracking year is Corey Thompson. This will possibly be his last game of rugby league, which is exciting, but also sad for him… he's been really good for us out the back and especially at the back end of the year, he’s been massive for us.
“I feel like if Corey Thompson can have a day out, then we'll put ourselves in a good position.”
Match: Bears v Tigers
Grand Final -
Venue: Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe
Powell said some of his best friends were also in the Bears side and he could not wait to come up against them.
“Guy, the ‘little general’, is one of my closest friends… he’s a great player,” Powell said, adding he was also close with Sam Coster, Sami Sauiluma and Pat Politoni.
“I love coming up against them, being my old teammates, my mates. I'm close with everyone there. I'm looking forward to the challenge… if we can win, it makes it a bit sweeter if it's over some of your best mates, but we'll just see what happens come Sunday.”
Powell said the Bears were “hard to beat any day” but he had every confidence in the Tigers side, including Solomona Faataape, who had “a lot of strike power”.
“They have experienced players that have been there and already played finals, won finals, lost finals,” Powell said.
“If we can just get in the grind and really take them to the last minute and put ourselves in a good position to win, that's all we can do.
“Our finals focus has been starting well… getting us on the front foot, defending well and letting the boys with the impact off the bench, come on and just keep the standard.
“Looking to really start well again on Sunday and put the team in a good position to go forward.”
Powell said come Sunday, his role was simple.
“You don’t need to do anything particularly special in the middle… our job’s pretty simple,” Powell said.
“You just got to try and get the team going forward and I feel like myself and the others have done that well, to put us in this position.
“We just try and go forward and let the flashy players outside us do their brilliance.
“I just really want to get the win on Sunday.”
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.