Townsville Blackhawks v Ipswich Jets
Sunday 27 September 3.55pm
Queensland's Intrust Super Cup reaches its pinnacle on Sunday afternoon when two sides with very contrasting styles clash in what shapes as an enthralling spectacle at Suncorp Stadium.
Finishing their inaugural season as minor premiers, the Townsville Blackhawks swept aside all challengers in 2015 with only three losses, while the third-placed Ipswich Jets captivated the rugby league public with their own unique brand of free-flowing and highly entertaining football.
Townsville qualified for the decider after defeating the PNG Hunters 26-12 in Week Two of the finals and head into Sunday's match fresh after a 14-day break.
The Jets were made to reach the grand final the hard way, but have rarely looked troubled during their finals campaign with wins over 2014 premiers Northern Pride, Easts Tigers and the Hunters.
Ipswich has scored 22 tries for 126 points in those three games, while also keeping their defensive line in check by only conceding 56 points.
The Blackhawks' strength lies in their pack size and big-game experience with their club a feeder team for the North Queensland Cowboys.
The competition newcomers head into the big dance with a combined total of 637 games of NRL experience while the Jets only have six NRL games courtesy of Broncos hooker Matt Parcell.
Both teams have won five games in a row heading into the grand final and have played each other twice this season for one win each.
History will be made by either side on Sunday with both teams searching for their maiden title.
Ipswich will play in their third Cup decider after losing to Redcliffe and Souths Logan in the 2002 and 2008 grand finals – they also lost back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989 in the old Brisbane Rugby League competition.
There's bound to be plenty of points on offer at Suncorp Stadium with five of the competition's top-eight try scorers playing in the grand final – Zac Santo (Townsville - 30), Marmin Barba (Ipswich - 29), Carlin Anderson (Ipswich - 18), Matt Parcell (Ipswich - 17) and Michael Parker-Walshe (Townsville -17) are all capable of finding the chalk.
How they'll line up:
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Tom Humble 4. Mosese Pangai 5. Samsen O’Neill 6. Robert Lui 7. Michael Parker-Walshe 8. Glenn Hall 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Rhyse Martin 12. Kelepi Tanginoa 13. Neville Costigan 15. Lorenzo Ma’afu 16. Chris McLean 17. Corey Jensen 18. Rhys Matsen 19. Ricky Thorby (one to be omitted). Coach: Kristian Woolf
Ipswich Jets: 1. Carlin Anderson 2. Marmin Barba 3. Liam Capewell 4. Nemani Valekapa 5. Richard Pandia 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Josh Seage 9. Matt Parcell 10. Rod Griffin 11. Sam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Keiron Lander (c) 14. Landon Hayes 15. Kurtis Lingwoodock 16. Billy McConnachie 22. Fakahoko Teutau. Coach: Ben Walker and Shane Walker
Watch out Blackhawks: As he's done for most of the season, Jets prop Rod Griffin played out of his skin during last weekend's preliminary final against the PNG Hunters and much of the same can be expected from the 28-year-old on Sunday.
Griffin picked up the Man of the Match award at Kougari Oval after a 72-minute performance which included 14 hit-ups for 149 metres, 26 tackles and nine offloads – taking the PNG-born forward's season tally to 91 offloads from 23 games. Second-phase play and keeping the ball alive are two key ingredients in the Jets style of play and Griffin is capable of producing that through the middle for the entire 80 minutes.
Griffin will become the first player to play a grand final for three different clubs after playing in the 2009 and 2010 deciders with the Pride and in 2011 with Tweed Heads.
Watch out Jets: He may be small in stature but Blackhawks winger Zac Santo is a giant when it comes to scoring tries.
The Townsville-born flyer is a full-time member of the North Queensland Cowboys and made his debut for the club against St George Illawarra in Round 17 last year.
Standing at only 175 centimetres, the former Cowboys' under-20s player of the year is the Blackhawks leading try-scorer this season with 30 tries including four in the Week Two grand final qualifier against PNG. The 22-year-old made 202 marauding metres down the left flank against the Hunters which included three line breaks and should he revel in the open pastures of Suncorp Stadium.
Key Match-up: Anthony Mitchell v Matt Parcell
There are notable influences across the park for both sides but it's the battle of the No.9s that shapes as a crucial competent in determining Sunday's winner.
Former Eels, Roosters and Cowboys rake Anthony Mitchell has been one of those crucial cogs in Townsville's charge this season and he'll need to call upon every ounce of experience he's garnered during his five seasons and 38 games in the NRL.
The 26-year-old has tasted ISC success before having won a premiership with Cowboys feeder club Mackay Cutters in 2013 and provides the Blackhawks with the direction they desire from dummy half.
Parcell, meanwhile, has been nothing short of sensational for the Jets this season and the 22-year-old was rewarded for his fine form with six NRL appearances for the Broncos during the Origin period.
Since then the Ipswich-born rake has signed a three-year deal with the Manly Sea Eagles and has continued to flourish under coaches Ben and Shane Walker.
Parcell's speed and support play around the ruck is a worry for any opposition and with eight tries from his past three games the Blackhawks know he must be contained in the decider.
History: Played 2; Blackhawks 1, Jets 1. Honours are even between these sides but that will all change come 6pm Sunday. The Jets beat the Blackhawks 36-24 at home in Round 2 after leading 26-0 at half-time, while in the Round 22 return fixture the Jets led 24-10 at half-time but eventually lost 36-28.
Odds: Blackhawks $1.53 v Jets $2.50. Sportsbet has the Blackhawks as warm favourites for this clash and they're giving up a -5.5 start at the line as a result.
Match Officials: Referee: Clayton Sharpe. Touch Judges: Nick Morel and Peter Anderson. Standby Referee: Michael Gordon.
Clayton Sharpe will become the first match official to referee four-straight Intrust Super Cup grand finals and will equal Tony Maksoud’s long-standing record of five grand finals.
Televised: Channel Nine (Qld) – coverage from 3.30pm & live stream on QRL.com.
The Way We See It: The Blackhawks have been the team to beat all season and have a wealth of experience across the park courtesy of an injection of talent from the Cowboys. Whether that translates into an Intrust Super Cup title in their first season remains to be seen as they'll be lining up against a red-hot Jets outfit high on confidence and with plenty of momentum. The Jets are sentimental favourites and will have the majority of the Suncorp Stadium crowd behind them which could play a factor late in the match if the contest is still up for grabs during the final minutes. Ipswich Jets by 4.