The Intrust Super State Championship is up for grabs on Sunday afternoon for the Redcliffe Dolphins and Canterbury Bulldogs, but for the Queensland representatives of the Intrust Super competitions there’s a little more on the line – Queensland pride.
2018 hasn’t been a great year for Queensland rugby league, losing the State of Origin series, the Women’s one-off Origin clash, the Under 18’s and Residents clashes. The last one to be decided for the year is the NRL State Championship which puts the Queensland competition premiers up against the NSW counterparts.
The recent record for the Intrust Super Cup isn’t great either. After winning the first two of these clashes in 2014 and 2015 with Northern Pride and Ipswich respectively, the subsequent two clashes have seen the Queensland sides Burleigh and PNG Hunters hammered by their NSW opponents.
Can Redcliffe turn the tables and win one for Queensland? Absolutely.
Here’s a look at how both got there and why they can win the Intrust Super State Championship.
HOW CANTERBURY CAN WIN
There’s some excellent talent in the Bulldogs side, no more highlighted than with PNG International Rhyse Martin who played quite possibly the three most important seconds in his career at ANZ Stadium a few weeks out from the finals. This allowed him to qualify, and steer the Bulldogs to the title.
Some familiar faces in the side include John Olive, with the twenty-one year old spending time at the Rabbitohs and Titans before moving to the Bulldogs in 2018. Zac Woolford has taken after his father, Huddersfield Giants coach Simon Woolford as being a handy number nine. Intrust Super Cup fans would be familiar with former Ipswich Jets half Josh Cleeland, quite possibly unlucky not to have played for games at the top-level.
This game will represent the end of Greg Eastwood’s time at the club. A huge year for the New Zealand international with a very serious health scare during the off-season.
Plenty of attacking options to choose from including Mason Cerruto and Josh Bergamin. When they get on a roll, the points flow but as we often see at Intrust Super Premiership level – they can leak points in averaging 22 points per game. This is what makes the Bulldogs exciting to watch.
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
After 24 rounds of the Intrust Super Premiership, the Bulldogs finished in fourth spot. A loss to the Panthers in week 1 of the finals put them in sudden death football for the remainder of the series.
They got the better of Wyong Roos in week 2 before a brilliant win over St George-Illawarra Dragons in the Grand Final Qualifier despite losing Matt Frawley early in the contest.
On Grand Final Day they faced crowd favourites Newtown Jets at Leichhardt Oval. Behind 10-0, on the stroke of half-time the Bulldogs got into the contest with Fa’amanu Brown crossing after a long video ref review. They took the lead through Josh Bergamin twelve minutes after the break before Kyle Flanagan levelled scores at 12-all with fourteen to go. Morgan Harper gave the Bulldogs the lead with nine minutes to play, handing the club their third NSW Cup title.
HOW REDCLIFFE CAN WIN
Redcliffe have a squad without any great superstars, but have consistently done the job throughout the 2018 season.
They topped the Intrust Super Cup in attack with 26 points per game, slightly above the Bulldogs average of 24. But their defence was also remarkably solid, conceding just 16 points per game, an advantage over the Bulldogs of five points per game, almost a converted try.
To say there are not any superstars is not meant to be unkind to great players like halfback Cameron Cullen (who previously played in this game as part of the 2016 premiers Burleigh), boom Broncos prospect Kotoni Staggs, one of the toughest men in rugby league in prop Sam Anderson, and occasional Bronco Tom Opacic.
But you only have to look at the two best players from the Grand Final on Sunday in fullback Trai Fuller and second rower Toby Rudolf, both relatively unknown outside of the closest Intrust Super Cup observers and Redcliffe fans, showing a great performance can come from anyone in a side lacking pretension under the great leadership of FOG Adam Mogg.
It’s a side that has lost just twice in the second half of the season including finals, and that consistent form and performance is the key to winning. The Tigers had Sam Kasiano as part of their side in Sunday’s Grand Final, and he was clearly the worst on the field, so a big NRL name doesn’t mean everything.
That, and a chance to show themselves on a national stage, the ultimate shopping window.
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
The Redcliffe Dolphins were minor premiers of the 2018 regular season, beating Burleigh and Townsville in a three-way battle at the top that raged for the second half of the season.
They played just once before the Grand Final, the luxury of finishing in the top two of a top 6 finals series, and won their 1st v 2nd clash against Burleigh 13-6.
Redcliffe outlasted the Easts Tigers in the Grand Final. The 36-22 wasn’t a true reflection of the game, which could have gone either way with a key decision going against the Tigers with five minutes to go. Not to say they didn’t deserve the title win, they were slightly the more enthusiastic in key moments, and executed that little bit better than Easts.
DON’T KNOW REDCLIFFE?
Redcliffe are a powerhouse in the Queensland Cup/Intrust Super Cup era from 1996, winning six titles and were beaten grand finalists on another six occasions.
They have fully equipped new Stadium, and a lot of financial might. Plus ambitions of one day being an NRL side in their own right. Not forgetting they stopped the Gold Coast franchise from using the nickname Dolphins due to their NRL ambitions.
It was rugby league immortal Arthur Beetson’s club before he left for the NSWRL, a giant among the many great Dolphins through the decades.
1. Trai Fuller 2. Josh Beehag 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jeremy Hawkins 6. Bryce Donovan 7. Cameron Cullen (C) 16. Nathan Watts 9. Jake Turpin 10. Sam Anderson 14. Myles Taueli 11. Toby Rudolf 13. Jamil Hopoate 8. Nick Slyney 12. Aaron Whitchurch 15. James Taylor 17. Hugh Pratt 19. Scott Schulte 22. Tom Geraghty
Coach: Adam Mogg
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
1. Mason Cerruto 2. Joshua Bergamin 3. Morgan Harper 4. John Olive 5. Jayden Okunbor 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Fa’amanu Brown 8. Renouf To’omaga 9. Zac Woolford 10. Francis Tualau 11. Ofahiki Ogden 12. Rhyse Martin(c) 13. Greg Eastwood 14. Bronson Garlick 15. Lachlan Burr 16. Jack Nelson 17. Chris Smith 19. Zac Cardassilaris 20. Brandon Wakeham 21. Jesse Martin 22. D’Rhys Miller
Coach: Steve Georgallis