Epic stamina battle looms in Ipswich under-18 showdown
AFTER his team's "epic'' preliminary final victory, Brothers Blue coach Ben McAteer hopes for a less nerve-racking experience on Saturday night.
However, facing a former teammate as opposing mentor and with so much quality in both sides, McAteer knows another cliffhanger could be on the cards.
Brothers Blue qualified for the grand final against Norths Blue after kicking a field goal in sudden-death extra-time to beat Goodna 21-20.
Isaac Fels potted the crucial field goal to eliminate the minor premiers and advance third-placed Brothers to the title decider.
Adding to the drama, both teams had a try disallowed in golden point extra time.
"It was an absolute epic game of football,'' McAteer said.
"The game was probably one of the best games that I've watched being involved in junior rugby league for 15 years.
"It was end-to-end.''
Although plenty of mistakes were made in the preliminary final, McAteer said it was terrific to see both sides chancing their arms to "get the ascendancy''.
Coming from 16-4 down, Brothers showed plenty of heart against the powerful Goodna combination.
It was McAteer's first time coaching a team in golden point.
"We had to learn on the run and we were very cautious with our interchanges throughout the game knowing there was every possibility it (extra time) was going to happen,'' he said.
But he admired how his team hung tough, having talked about playing out games until the death.
Brothers' regular season included earlier tough battles with Goodna and a 12-12 draw with Norths.
"We've struggled for numbers at different times through injuries, school commitments, one player going to the Ipswich Jets every other week and under 18s playing on a Friday night is probably not the ideal time for those guys to be playing either,'' he said.
Among the leading Brothers players have been Josh Henderson, who played for the Jets under-20s this season.
Halfback Nick Moyer has captained this year's Brothers Blue side.
McAteer has played representative footy with Norths coach Michael Williamson and coached his son so knows how Norths teams prepare and perform.
But like Norths, Brothers also have an ongoing strong development focus.
McAteer has worked with Brothers teams in every age group from under-6 to C-Grade. He was proud how the top end juniors continue to deliver in big matches.
"We fluctuate in age groups but a lot of these boys, this will be the third grand final in a row,'' McAteer said.
"This is the first season I've coached these boys.
"I coached a few in under 12s years ago but these boys have been well coached in the past, which made my job 100 times easier than I thought it would be.
"They have a good grounding as footballers and really all I've had to do is tweak a couple of things to my style of play.''