History repeats itself
IT seems only yesterday that Wallaroos broke Brothers’ hearts on a fresh Sunday afternoon at Salter Oval.
But here we are, 12 months later doing it all again.
A lot has changed since then — Wallaroos didn’t even turn up to defend last year’s premiership, while Brothers’ normal season campaign hardly resembled that of a top-two side.
Hervey Bay Seagulls pressed their claims early in the season, and had many a punter talking up a premiership.
Likewise Isis Devils — bolstered by the strongest off-season recruitment of any club — had Childers fans raving right up until they were steamrolled in last week’s semi-final.
The whole time, Easts have drifted through the season with consistency and efficiency, doing enough to post the win when it mattered most.
Money wasn’t on the Magpies to finish as minor premiers, and they arguably enter tomorrow’s decider as underdogs, despite rivals Brothers finishing fourth on the ladder.
Not many are giving the Maggies a chance, but nobody is tipping a lop-sided affair, such is the fighting spirit of Easts.
This is not to say Brothers will enter the decider with complacency, skipper Cameron Ricciardi has made sure of that.
He, along with senior players Steve Irwin, Michael Wise, Brent Kuskey and coaches Tracey Kuskey remember that stinging feeling after coming so close (40-38) last year.
“This is what we’ve been training for since last November,” he said.” There is a nervous feeling in the squad but we are feeling good.”
They have played some of their best footy since their sudden-death semis began three weeks ago, capping it with a 62-6 thumping of Isis last weekend.
Easts have made clear they plan to stick with the star-studded Brothers outfit, using good old-fashioned brute strength. Look for big AJ Evans to lead by example, while an elusive backline of Nigel Shield, Matty Tanner and Waylon Eggmolesse will constantly probe Brothers on the fringes.
On the other side, Ricciardi will do a lot of work taking the ball up, along with Canaan Brown, while their speedy backs Michael Wise, Christian Thompson and Tien Nguyen constantly search for points.
Both sides boast experience in the halves, but whoever keeps their head in the crunch moments will gain a decisive advantage.
Watch for Brothers’ five-eighth Steve Irwin, who was on fire last weekend, and keep an eye on Josh Garden, who has a canny knack of beating Brothers’ defensive line.
Garden, the Easts player coach, is ready for an arm wrestle and Bundaberg Rugby League fans are hoping that is the case, no matter what the result.
Both teams are full of points but have openly said their defence will win them the contest, so what happens tomorrow is anyone’s guess.
BRL A-grade final — 3.40pm Sunday at Salter Oval, under-13 final from 8.25am