After just over 160 games in 30 locations from Kokopo to Piggabeen the Intrust Super Cup season reaches its big conclusion at the home of Queensland Rugby League this Sunday – Suncorp Stadium.
It is hard to argue on the balance of the season and finals series that the two teams who deserve it the most are playing for the trophy. Other teams will argue, with some justification that they are also worthy finalists too, but at the end of the day the Townsville Blackhawks have been the stand out team of the regular season, and the Ipswich Jets have been the best team in the finals series.
There are quite a few similarities between the two grand finalists. For instance, aside from the fact that they both play in green and white, both teams are from cities with a strong military background, highlighted in their nicknames based on the aircraft used from their bases. Both teams also failed to beat the PNG Hunters juggernaut during the regular season, but both sides took revenge when it mattered most – in the finals. Both teams also are yet to win an Intrust Super Cup (nee Queensland Cup) title. That’s where the similarities end.
Townsville are more of the modern day structured rugby league team. They also have loads of NRL experience with many Cowboys fringe players, and even Grand Final winners like ex Manly winner Glen hall and an Origin representative in Neville Costigan. They also dominated their inaugural season in the Intrust Super Cup, and at one stage it looked like awarding the trophy was a mere formality. They may not have the attacking reputation of their opponents, but ask some of the sides that Townsville put 50+ past this season of their attacking capabilities. Burleigh especially, who were handed a 78-6 hiding during the 2015 season.
Whilst there’s the argument of Townsville having one of the most experienced Intrust Super Cup sides of recent seasons, it cannot be forgotten that this is still their first season, and to harness all that experience into a well-oiled machine in such a short time frame with the occasional raid of the Cowboys during the season has been some achievement.
Ipswich meanwhile are the free spirits of the Intrust Super Cup, rivalling the PNG Hunters for the neutrals second team to watch throughout the season. Many will be aware of the work of the Jets this season, under the supervision of Shane and Ben Walker who have brought a fresh breath of air to not only the Intrust Super Cup, but rugby league in general with their tactics and allowing their players to back themselves if the situation warrants. Just like a Justin Hodges run from dummy half, the Jets’ short kick offs are expected but somehow still very effective, and their conversion rate against the Hunters last weekend makes one ponder why it hasn’t caught on elsewhere. That is just one of the more peculiar plays Ipswich are likely to produce on Sunday.
Their attacking freedom is helped by a team full of speed and skill, this was highlighted in bold with Manly-bound hooker scoring five tries two weeks ago against the Tigers, or the many Marmin Barba runs down the left this finals series, or the 90m intercept try from Carlin Anderson last weekend. Ipswich may concede a few more points on average than the Blackhawks, but they can be guaranteed to score plenty too, so it will remain to be seen if they can score enough points to get over the line.
So who will win? Townsville deserve their favouritism based on a very strong 2015 season, but a question does hang over them with just two visits to Brisbane against top 6 sides this year ending in 1 loss and 1 draw, the loss was against the Jets in Round 2. The Jets also pushed them all the way in the return leg in Charters Towers in Round 23, leading convincingly at half time before a strong Townsville fightback in the second half was enough for a Townsville win. Another question is whether 1 game in three weeks is a good thing or bad thing. There’s no question however that the passionate supporter base in Townsville will be willing them to win on Sunday.
Ipswich are in great form from their three big finals wins, and that knockout threat hanging over their head over the past three weeks will have them ready for the big showdown. They have seen off both of last year’s grand finalists and arguably the second best form team of the season in three weeks. One question before the finals series was whether the Jets style of football would translate to winning finals football, and the answer to that question is an emphatic yes so far.
Either way it will no doubt be a great showpiece for the Intrust Super Cup, and both will be very competitive on NRL Grand Final day against the NSW Cup winner. A win for Ipswich may just showcase a different style of rugby league that still wins may catch on if given a chance to shine on NRL Grand Final day, and we can thank the Walker Brothers when more teams concentrate on the attacking side of the sport instead of the ruck.
On that basis alone, my fearless prediction gives Ipswich their first Intrust Super Cup on Sunday.
IPSWICH 32 TOWNVILLE 26
QLD – Channel 9/WIN QLD/NBN from 3:30pm
OTHER – Visit the QRL website for a live stream
FULL GRAND FINAL PROGRAM
TOWNSVILLE $1.60 IPSWICH $2.35
LINE: IPSWICH +3.5
PREVIOUS HEAD TO HEAD FORM:
R2 (15/3) IPSWICH 36 TOWNSVILLE 24 @ North Ipswich Reserve
R23 (16/8) TOWNSVILLE 36 IPSWICH 28 @ Charters Tower
2015 FINALS FORM
Week 1 – Bye
Week 2 – TOWNSVILLE 26 def PNG 12 @ Jack Manski Oval, Townsville
Week 3 – Rest Weekend
Week 1 – IPSWICH 54 def NORTHERN PRIDE 26
Week 2 – IPSWICH 44 def EASTS TIGERS 18
Week 3 – IPSWICH 28 def PNG 12
Townsville and District 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
Coach: Kristian Woolf
PLAYER TO WATCH: MOSESE PANGAI
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
PLAYER TO WATCH: MARMIN BARBA