Just the top 6 remain in the Intrust Super Cup as the 25 round regular season came to an end last weekend, and the finals are shaping up to be a classic with all six teams remaining having plenty to offer and chances to win the competition.

The standout team is the Townsville Blackhawks, who won the minor premiership in their first season, and lost just the three games en route to a staggering 500+ for and against difference. The PNG Hunters pushed them all the way, and an unbeaten run since Round 6 wasn’t enough as they finished just one competition point behind in second.

Ipswich Jets and Wynnum Seagulls were ever present in the top 6 throughout the year, as they seem to be every season, and both earned home finals for week one by finishing in third and fourth respectively.

Easts Tigers and Northern Pride round out the finalists, and both teams spent time outside the Top 6 this year, but strong second halves of the season gave them the momentum the qualify for the finals.

Every team has their qualities that can win them this competition, and all will still have grand plans of playing on the last Sunday of September at Suncorp Stadium. We have a quick rundown of all of their chances further below.

WHAT’S HAPPENING GRAND FINAL DAY?

For those keen to attend the end of season finale, it’ll only cost $20, and not only will you get top shelf Intrust Super Cup action, but there’s also three curtain raisers as well. So clear the schedule and head to the home of Queensland Rugby League. Talk about value.

QRL Grand Final day – Suncorp Stadium, September 27

Match times: (Gates Open at 10.45am).

– NRL Development Cup: 10.55am.

– Schoolboys Test – Australia v NZ: 11.55am.

– FOGS Colts Challenge: 1.45pm.

– Intrust Super Cup: 3.55pm.

http://www.qrl.com.au/news/2015/08/27/_2015_intrust_super_.html

 

HOW DOES THE FINALS SERIES WORK?

Here’s the quickest explanation of what’s going to happen this September. Surprisingly it appears as if Ch9 will show the elimination final instead of 1st v 2nd next weekend, their loss, and our loss I suppose. We will keep those with interest in touch throughout the finals.

Week 1
Teams 3 to 6 play each other – 2 losers are eliminated.

A – Ipswich v Northern Pride – Sunday 1:40pm (TV Game)
B – Wynnum v Easts – Sunday 3:00pm (Good people at Tigers or Seagulls good for a live stream)

Catch up with the team news for Week 1 from the QRL website at http://www.qrl.com.au/news/2015/09/01/intrust_super_cup_fi.html

Week 2
Teams 1 and 2 play each other winner to GF – 2 winners from last week play each other – loser eliminated – winner to play loser of 1 v 2.

C – Townsville v PNG Hunters – Saturday 5:00pm (Pray for a Live Stream)
D – Winner A v Winner B – Sunday 1:40pm (TV Game)

Week 3
Loser of 1 v 2 last week against Winner of Game D. Winner to GF and loser is out.

E – Loser of Townsville/PNG Hunters vs Winner Game D (interesting if Ch9 dare to go to PNG if they are to host)

Week 4
Grand Final. Winner to State Championship on NRL GF Day.

F – Winner of Townsville/ PNG Hunters vs Winner Game E

 

HOW DO THE FINALS TEAMS SHAPE UP?

TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS
Regular Season: 1st
Record: P23  W19  D1  L3  F/A +507
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 9 Won 5 Loss 3 Draw 1
Odds for Premiership: $2.25
Player to Watch: Robert Lui

Townsville have had a hold on the top of the Intrust Super Cup for most of the season, and the novelty wore off quickly for the other teams as the Blackhawks asserted their authority over the competition with some big wins. The 78-6 defeat of Burleigh a frightening exhibition of their super powers at times in 2015.

But they weren’t invincible, and the four games they didn’t win were against the other top 6 teams. PNG are the bogey team for Townsville with 2 wins from their 2 meetings. Interestingly, the other non-wins came in South East Queensland against Ipswich (loss) and Easts (Draw) from their only two games around the capital against the top teams. Maybe there is a question of whether the Blackhawks can win in South East Queensland, not a good statistic if one wants to win a grand final at Suncorp.

But the Blackhawks boast a team full of NRL Experience, and even better, players with NRL premierships under their belt like Neville Costigan and Glenn Hall. That experience will be a major plus over some of the sides, especially the Hunters whose players are all in their first finals series.  All the other teams in the top 6 will have an edge of previous Intrust Super Cup finals experience.

The Blackhawks are favourites to take the trophy, and deservedly so, but the fact they play Hunters first, and no wins in Brisbane is the concern.

PNG HUNTERS
Regular Season: 2nd
Record: P23  W18  D2  L3  F/A +507
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 9 Won 7 Loss 2
Odds for Premiership: $3.25
Player to Watch: Willie Minoga

The Hunters started off the year with 3 wins and 3 losses and it looked like second season syndrome was setting in after a promising first season ended with the Hunters just outside the finals in sixth place.

The loss against Wynnum in Round 6 was the last they have suffered in 2015, as a 17 game unbeaten run featuring 15 wins and 2 draws has seen them enter the top 6 and fight Townsville all the way to the last week for the minor premiership. And they have done it in their usual style that wins so many admirers. For more on the Hunters season catch up with one of our previous reads.

Where 2014 was all about the electric style that people love about PNG rugby league, they have added extra steel this year and have won a lot of close games where the previous season they may not have. That bodes well for what will no doubt be a tight finals series. What also looks favourable is they have the best record against other Top 6 with just the two losses from 9 games, including wins in both games against the Blackhawks, their first finals opponent.

But how long can the unbeaten run last? The big question is whether they can handle the pressure of finals and make the offloads stick under pressure. The fact that they have played to a frenzied home crowd of 15,000+ three times this year and won on each occasion gives the indication they might just handle it.

IPSWICH JETS
Regular Season: 3rd
Record: P23  W16  L7  F/A +198
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 10 Won 4 Loss 6
Odds for Premiership: $6.00
Player to Watch: Marmin Barba

Always the entertainers, and a side from whom you never know what you’re going to see, the Ipswich Jets were their usual competitive selves throughout 2015 and sealed third spot for the season in the final round of the year.

Ipswich were among three teams earlier in the season fighting over second spot, before the Hunters went on their big unbeaten run, and have been blow for blow with Wynnum throughout the season. Their stoush only decided on the last day of the season.

The Jets record against the top 6 teams is under 50% and a great deal of those losses was in a very tough run in the second half of the season where they played all of the other Top 6 sides over 7 rounds, beating the top sides just the once in that run. One thing in their favour is they are only one of two sides to beat the all-conquering Townsville side this year, and went very close to doing the double in Charters Towers in Country Week.

One thing that can be guaranteed is that there will be plenty of entertainment in their fixtures, and no wonder the TV camera are descending on North Ipswich Reserve on Sunday. Maybe they might surprise all with a standard game plan full of one out hit ups. We can all hope they don’t with their electric backline.

WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS
Regular Season: 4th
Record: P23  W16 L7  F/A +183
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 8 Won 4 Loss 4
Odds for Premiership: $8.00
Player to Watch: Mathew Seamark

Wynnum Manly sealed their home final last weekend against the very opponent they play this weekend, with just the venue switched as the Seagulls grabbed the home ground advantage with a hard fought 17-10 win over their local rivals. For the second year in a row these teams meet in the last week of the season and first week of the finals.

Home ground may not be the big advantage it seems on paper as the Seagulls lost 4 of their 11 games at home this year, and two of four against Top 6 sides. One of those home wins however was against the PNG Hunters, a feat completed by just the Tigers and Sunshine Coast in 2015.

A late season stumble of two straight losses cost Wynnum a chance at third place. But the Seagulls are a finals hardened teams having won premierships in the recent years of the Intrust Super Cup, and are regular finals participants and are well experienced about what is required.

They meet local rivals Easts Tigers against to keep their premiership dream alive, and have the advantage over Easts thus far in 2015, with both of the home and away fixtures being won by Wynnum. However the Tigers did turn around the last round loss at home to Wynnum last year to beat the Seagulls at BMD Kougari, and will be hoping to repeat the feat again this weekend. Unlike last year, these sides can’t meet again in the finals.

EASTS TIGERS
Regular Season: 5th
Record: P23  W13  D2  L8  F/A +204
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 10 Won 3 Loss 6 Draw 1
Odds for Premiership: $12.00
Player to Watch: Shaun Nona

The Tigers just missed out on the home final last weekend, and will be looking for revenge against their rivals on their turf on Sunday afternoon. That loss was only their second at home as the Tigers have proved very hard to beat at Tapout Energy Stadium. Ask Ipswich and Townsville who came away with a loss and a draw.

Away form is the worry for Easts as they were far less successful on the road in 2015. Their record of 4 wins, a draw and 7 losses doesn’t sound great, but their away record against the top 6 is worrying coming into the finals with all 5 meetings away against Top 6 sides ending in a loss. They also haven’t won north of Rockhampton which will make things hard as the Hunters or the Blackhawks will be the final stepping stone to the Grand Final.

But Easts are the kind of club that can turn that statistic around, just as they picked up after the loss of Grant Giess during the season and powered from fringe Top 6 side to contender, they remain a dangerous finals side to play. Their performance against Redcliffe the week before looked like a side ready for the finals. But whether they can do it away against the top sides is the question.

NORTHERN PRIDE
Regular Season: 6th
Record: P23 W14 L9 F/A +76
Record against other Top 6 Teams: Played 8 Won 3 Loss 5
Odds for Premiership: $21.00
Player to Watch: Linc Port

Last year’s premiers started the season off terribly with four straight losses and looked like a long way from a top 6 side, let alone defending premiers. But the Pride got their season back on track with a good run from Round 6 onwards. In fact after that start the Pride’s record of 14 wins and 5 losses is as good as any with the exception of the top two over that run. The fact they sealed their top 6 spot with a week to go shows the quality of their late season run after such a poor start.

One thing about the Pride is that their games are usually tight, giving them experience of the type of football required for the finals series. Experience is also the key as most of this side won last year’s Intrust  Super Cup and the State Championship on NRL Grand Final Day.

The Pride’s record against the top 6 looks doesn’t look strong, but their three wins have come against the sides they are either playing this weekend, or likely to play next weekend if they win. They ran Ipswich close to in Round 4, and snuck home against Wynnum by a point earlier in the season. A loss at Easts in round 1 rounds out the 1 – 2 record in South East Queensland against the top sides. The record is much better up north, however from sixth they won’t get that advantage.

Can they win the competition from sixth? A team with a winning pedigree will always have hope they can, and Channel 9 will be there for all to see.


FEARLESS PREDICTION
After looking into the Crystal Ball I foresee a PNG Hunters v Ipswich Jets final, which will entertain and end up in the Hunters favour.