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Intrust Super Cup Grand Final
Northern Pride v Easts Tigers
Sunday, Suncorp Stadium, 3.55pm
Two teams who still possess hurtful scars from the manner in which their 2013 campaigns came to a close seek redemption in the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday when the Northern Pride take on the Easts Tigers.
For the second year in a row the Pride finished the regular season as minor premiers but unlike last year when they suffered consecutive finals defeats, this time the men from Cairns get to contest the decider on Queensland Rugby League's grandest stage.
There they will meet last year's runners up, the Easts Tigers, who progressed to the grand final with a commanding 32-10 win over Wynnum last weekend and who suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of the Pride in the Major Semi-Final a fortnight ago.
There are a host of current and future NRL stars on display with the Pride bolstered by the return of Ethan Lowe from the North Queensland Cowboys and boasting Shaun Nona (Storm) and Blake Leary (Sea Eagles) who have signed NRL contracts for next season.
The Tigers' affiliation with the Melbourne Storm will see Cameron Munster, Mitchell Garbutt and Kenny Bromwich line up in the Grand Final along with future South Sydney Rabbitoh Cody Walker.
The Pride and Tigers have met three times thus far in 2014 with the first encounter in Round 7 postponed until July due to Tropical Cyclone Ita when the Tigers, courtesy of a Marika Koroibete hat-trick, triumphed 16-4.
Having been admitted into the state league in 2008, the Pride were premiers in 2010 but the Tigers haven't tasted success since they won the Brisbane Rugby League grand final in 1991, finishing runners up in 1997, 2004 and 2013.
Pride: 20 wins, four losses (first)
Tigers: 16 wins, seven losses, one draw (third)
Tigers 16 def. Pride 4 (Round 7); Pride 44 def. Tigers 20 (Rd 16); Pride 8 def. Tigers 7 (Major Semi-Final)
Sam Obst (Pride) v Cody Walker (Tigers)
A pint-sized No.7 who started his career at the Sydney Roosters before an extensive career in England that included 137 games for Wakefield Trinity, Obst is the general who marshals the Pride forwards and allows the players with flair outside him to do their best work. He has developed a marvellous combination with five-eighth Shaun Nona and his cool head under pressure will be critical in the Grand Final atmosphere. Walker has been unable to crack a spot in the Storm's NRL squad this season and has signed to play with the Rabbitohs in 2015 but has been integral in Easts' success thus far. The 2013 Intrust Super Cup Player of the Year scored two tries and set up three more in last week's Preliminary Final win over Wynnum and would love nothing more than to secure a Tigers premiership and a trip to his new home at ANZ Stadium for the inaugural NRL State Championship on Grand Final day.
Pride coach Jason Demetriou: "The whole region is stacked with rugby league players and people who love the game so it's been refreshing to come back and be part of that. It's an area that embraces you and I probably see myself as a North Queenslander now. I love the place and really looking forward to putting on a good show and taking the trophy back there because there are a lot of people I know rooting for us. In the Major Semi-Final both teams weren't great with the footy, we made a lot of errors by pushing a lot of passes that we didn't need to push and it was a credit to the boys that we were able to hang on but it was lucky that Easts made plenty of errors as well so I think both teams will be a lot better this weekend."
Tigers coach Craig Ingebrigtsen: "The players are aware and appreciate the club and its history and its entirety of what we've done at that organisation but we want to create our own history and our own path for our players. We haven't talked about the history of the club – last year we did, and I think that was a failing of ours – but this year we haven't really talked about it. We've just talked about us doing our jobs and hopefully getting the right result. There are free buses coming from Langlands Park and we're encouraging all the Tigers fans to get out here because we want as much support as we can get. We're playing against a quality side and the boys need people to get behind and support them and if they do that and get the Easts chant happening we're going to be in it for a long time and we'll get them at the back end I think."
Northern Pride: 1 Hezron Murgha, 2 Javid Bowen, 3 Brett Anderson (c), 4 Davin Crampton, 5 Semi Tadulala, 6 Shaun Nona, 7 Sam Obst, 8 Ricky Thorby, 9 Jason Roos (c), 10 Ethan Lowe, 11 Blake Leary, 12 Tyrone McCarthy, 13 Ben Spina. Interchange: 14 Ryan Ghietti, 15 Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, 16 Joel Riethmuller, 17 Jack Svendsen. Coach: Jason Demetriou.
Easts Tigers: 1 Cameron Munster, 2 Jarrod McInally, 3 Shane Neumann, 4 Donald Malone, 5 Richie Kennar, 6 Liam Tyson, 7 Cody Walker, 8 Steven Thorpe (c), 9 Tommy Butterfield, 10 Mitchell Garbutt, 11 Dane Hogan, 12 Troy Giess*, 13 Jacob Ling. Interchange: 14 Liam McDonald, 15 Felise Kaufusi, 16 Matthew Zgrajewski, 17 Kenny Bromwich, 18 Hymel Hunt. Coach: Craig Ingebrigtsen. *Subject to judiciary hearing.