BITTER RIVALRY: Brothers' Graham Sepulona takes a hit-up during the qualifying final meeting between Brothers and Norths.
BITTER RIVALRY: Brothers' Graham Sepulona takes a hit-up during the qualifying final meeting between Brothers and Norths. Cordell Richardson

Notoa 'The Messiah' relishing last season

IF BROTHERS lose today's Rugby League Ipswich Reserve Grade grand final, a lack of big game experience will not be the reason why.

One man brings experience in abundance.

Opponents Norths may have an out-and-out superstar in the form of former dual-international Andrew Walker, but the Brethren have Fili Notoa.

The Brothers lock may not boast the international acclaim of his Norths rival, but few in Ipswich can hold a candle to Notoa's grand final record.

A member of Brothers' 2006, '07, '08, '09, '11 and '13 A-Grade premiership sides, the man nicknamed "The Messiah” returned to the fold this season keen to add a Reserve Grade trophy to his overflowing cabinet.

"It has been different,” Notoa said.

"There's a lot of young faces.

"When I first played A-Grade down there, these blokes were 12. To be running around with them now is crazy.”

Notoa spent the 2014-15 seasons at West End, returning to Brothers this year for one last go around.

No matter today's result, the veteran has already decided this will be his last game.

"It's time to hang them up mate,” Notoa said. "The kids are getting older, it's their time to shine now.

"Also the missus would probably kill me if I went around another year. It would be good to finish on a high.”

Notoa has embraced everything about season 2018.

From pulling on the blue and white again, to finishing as minor premiers and watching as the next generation of Brothers talent make their mark on the competition.

"Last time I played for Brothers, I had older blokes to look up to. I was the youngest for years, now it's reversed,” Notoa said.

"I came back about round 10 I think. I don't know why, but it felt like (coach Steve O'Connell) had been there for years.

"Everyone just gelled. Nothing was out of place. It makes my time on the field so much easier when you've got young guys that are keen to impress.

"I more or less just point them in the right direction and they thrive on it.”

Notoa wanted a different kind of challenge when he left the club at the end of 2013.

But he is happy to be retiring as a Brothers player - hopefully adding a Reserve Grade premiership medal in the process.

"A lot of us grew up out of nappies playing there,” Notoa said.

"Dads and older brothers all playing there, it just stuck. I started I reckon in under-13s.”

Brothers are aiming to make it three Reserve Grade premierships on the trot today.

Notoa said to do so against Norths would make the win "that much sweeter”.

"It's always good to play against Norths and beating them - even better in a grand final,” he said.

"But this is an Andrew Walker-led team. He makes them feel like they're 10-foot tall.”

How they got there:

Qualifying final: Brothers Ipswich 32 (Joshua Leisemann, Matthew Kuss, Douglas Faaiu, Malupo Notoa, Noah Elisaia tries; Joshua Leisemann 2, Ryan Brown 2 goals) def. Norths Tigers 20 (Jonathan Plumb, Ricki Mato, Tyson Hornbuckle, Andrew Walker tries; Wilson Bennett goal) at the North Ipswich Reserve.