Forwards battle to be decisive
DESPITE each boasting lethal backs, Bundaberg Turtles player/coach Rob Darney and Fraser Coast Mariners captain Adam Ebert both believe they can win tonight's All-Safe Spring Cup grand final at ATW Sports Complex in the forwards.
However, both are expecting the result to go down to the wire, just like the only time the two teams have met, when the pride of Bundaberg hung on by their flippers for what might have been a lucky 20-17 victory on October 29.
“Last time it was a very good game between two very good teams. It was a defensive game – the attack was sharp, but errors crept into both teams. But we got away with a win,” Darney said.
“I expect big games from Matt Templeman, Luke Cummins, our two flankers, the McKeown brothers (Brendon and Robert), and Joel Turaga and obviously the wingers Jesse Tass and Willie Nagas, and Matt Tanner at fullback as well.
“All in all it has all come together and gelled really well in the last 11 weeks, and whatever happens on the night I'll be very proud of them.
“But I expect our scrum to be dominant, with a very solid front row of AJ Evans, Daniel Unwin and Peni Vesikula, and second rowers Luke McCloskey and the ‘High Tower' Jason Schuler.
“I expect our tight five to be an absolutely dominant forward pack and for us to sustain it the whole game, because we've got plenty of good replacements on the side to come on and fill those positions.”
Templeman will be chasing his second premiership in the space of three months after being a star in Brothers' victory over Easts in the Bundaberg rugby league A-grade decider in September, when Tanner and Evans were members of the losing team.
The skilful Ebert, who calls the shots from halfback, will not hear of defeat.
“I expect to win. Last time we played Turtles it was only our second game and we were feeling our way in, but we only lost by three points. If anything it was a bonus for us, because we are not coasting into the final,” Ebert said.
He said they had come through their semi-final unscathed and were ready to rumble.
“We had a pretty good, sharp training session on Wednesday night and we're looking good,” he said.
“We haven't exactly got a lot of players (19) but they have all played every game for the last three weeks.”
Ebert said it was a very different team to the one that crushed Alloway Falcons' spirits in last year's final, but that they had strength across the field again.
He also backed his pack to lay the platform for a title defence.
“It's a very young side. The core group is basically the same but our two starting centres are new and we have got a different fullback. Really most of the backline is fairly new,” Ebert said.
“But it will be definitely won in the forwards and if ours dominate there, like in most games of rugby, the backs will score most of the points and we'll win.”
Ebert believes his domineering and tough No. 8 Trent Devere is a match-winner.
“Also our two loose forwards, Edward Ball and Michael MacDonald, are very mobile and they can also do some damage,” he said.
The big match will start at 7.30pm.
Fraser Coast Mariners
18 Jacob Walmsley
2 Jason Palmer
1 Ashley Pennington
4 Tom Hewitt
5 Dan Jacobson
7 Mick MacDonald
6 Edward Ball
8 Trent Devere
9 Adam Ebert
10 Troy Ngatai
12 Richard Hasnip
13 David Wellington
11 Nick Mackay
14 Kyle Leaver
15 Chris Dougan
20 Mick Bugeja
22 Cameron Mead
19 Heath Bartlett
17 Sean Bauer