Bears v Dolphins: ISC Grand Final preview
Burleigh Bears v Redcliffe Dolphins
Two of Queensland Rugby League's proudest clubs meet in an Intrust Super Cup Grand Final for the first time in more than a decade and with a determination to spark another period of success.
Burleigh was the first through to the decider courtesy of a 40-24 win over Redcliffe in the grand final qualifier but have not fought it out for the title since back in 2005 under coach Rick Stone, when they beat Redcliffe in the preliminary final before going down 36-6 to a North Queensland Young Guns team that featured current Cowboys premiership winners Matt Scott, Gavin Cooper and Scott Bolton.
Like Burleigh, Redcliffe's sustained period of success at the turn of the century has dried up in recent years, failing to qualify for the finals for the past three seasons after losing the 2012 Grand Final 20-10 to Wynnum Manly.
For a team that featured in five grand finals in succession from 1999-2003 not playing football in September has been a shock to the system but on the back of some excellent recruitment new coach Adam Mogg turned them into winners again.
Aaron Whitchurch (Broncos) is the only Dolphins player named in the 17 on Tuesday who is currently contracted to an NRL club while the Bears have Titans trio Cameron Cullen, Lachlan Burr and Nathaniel Peteru and are also sweating on the fitness of Jeff Lynch who is a chance to return from a medial ligament injury.
Watch out Bears: We won't know whether Redcliffe coach Adam Mogg is playing mind games until an hour before kick-off but he was adamant on Tuesday that star half Darren Nicholls would not be playing and Broncos flyer Jonus Pearson was also left off the team sheet. Nicholls was the competition's leading point-scorer in 2016 and halfback for the Queensland Residents while Pearson was named Intrust Super Cup Rookie of the Year, scoring 15 tries and making an impressive NRL debut. If either were to play it would represent a massive inclusion for the Dolphins.
Watch out Dolphins: At Burleigh in 2016 big is definitely considered to be better and containing their momentum through the middle of the field will be an 80-minute assignment for Redcliffe. Former Courier-Mail medallist Luke Page finished among the top five vote-getters in his return to the Intrust Super Cup this season while fellow front-rower Paterika Vaivai has earned a contract with the Titans for next season on the back of his performances for the Bears. And there's back-up on the bench too with bullocking prop Josh Ailaomai and skilful Titans big man Nathaniel Peteru. If those boys get going, hooker Pat Politoni and half Jamal Fogarty will come into their own.
Key match-up: Kurtis Rowe v Jack Ahearn. Two players who were tipped for bright futures when they came through the National Youth Competition have put aside the disappointment of not having NRL contracts in 2016 to star at fullback in their first seasons at their respective clubs. Rowe played eight NRL games for the Wests Tigers in 2014 and has scored 17 tries for the Bears this season while Ahearn arrived at Redcliffe after coming through the ranks at Canberra and has scored nine tries, including a double against Burleigh earlier this season. A starring role on Sunday will put them in the frame for an NRL recall in the near future.
History: Burleigh and Redcliffe have twice met in Intrust Super Cup deciders in the past 20 years with honours shared one win apiece, Burleigh winning 12-10 in 1999 and Redcliffe exacting revenge in 2003 with a 31-18 win at Dolphin Oval. The two teams met just once during the regular season with Redcliffe winning 32-14 courtesy of doubles to both Jack Ahearn and Curtis Johnston. The Bears bit back hard in the grand final qualifier, racing out to a 28-0 lead by half-time before winning 40-24.
What are the odds: Burleigh Bears $1.70, Redcliffe Dolphins $2.15. Punters with Sportsbet have identified Burleigh as over the odds and they've backed at the line where they're receiving the start. If the current trend of money continues the market will tighten up in the countdown to kick-off.
Burleigh: 1. Kurtis Rowe 2. Waka Wanahi 3. Joshua Berkers 4. Connor Broadhurst 15. Sami Sauiluma 6. Cameron Cullen 7. Jamal Fogarty (c) 8. Luke Page 9. Pat Politoni 10. Paterika Vaivai 11. Caleb Morehu 12. Hayden Schwass 13. Lachlan Burr. Interchange: 14. Parahi Wilson 16. Josh Ailaomai 17. Louis Fanene 22. Nathaniel Peteru. Coach: Jim Lenihan.
Redcliffe: 1. Jack Ahearn 2. Joshua Beehag 3. Daniel Randall 4. Joseph Bradley 5. Curtis Johnston 6. Zach Strasser 25. Christian Hazard 8. Sam Anderson (c) 9. Shane Pumipi 10. Charlie Faingaa 11. Aaron Whitchurch 12. Daniel Bridge 13. Christopher Gesch. Interchange: 15. Brandon Lee 16. Harley Aiono 20. Taylor Brown 23. Tyson Cleal. 18th man: Johnnie Fox. Coach: Adam Mogg.
Televised: Channel Nine (Qld) – Live from 3.30pm.
How we see it: Starts have been an issue for minor premiers Redcliffe in both their finals games to date but they finished strongly against both Burleigh and the Sunshine Coast. The loss of Nicholls would be a major blow but Zach Strasser proved against the Falcons he can both direct his team and deliver the brilliance if required. The Bears have played just one game in a month which will have given their big forward pack ample time to refresh and be ready for one last effort. Burleigh's big men and the combination of Cullen and Fogarty in the halves should give their side the edge. Bears by eight points.