Tries flow when the grand final favourites Goodna Eagles run the football. Picture: Bruce Clayton
Tries flow when the grand final favourites Goodna Eagles run the football. Picture: Bruce Clayton

Strengths and weaknesses of footy grand final rivals

BOMBER'S BLAST

Anthony Breeze

IT'S grand final time when players enjoy the big dance to victory or are left reflecting on their rugby league season.

The Goodna Eagles and Norths Tigers will battle out the Rugby League Ipswich Volunteers Cup decider at the North Ipswich Reserve on Saturday.

Here's how the teams shape up for the 3pm clash.

Goodna: Have been the best team all year losing only one game throughout the entire competition. They have been super strong in attack where they have scored a staggering 446 points and conceded only 232 from 11 games.

The Eagles build their game on power through the forwards, led by captain Ramon Filipine, experienced veteran Rez Phillips and youngster Wilson Malaesilia.

While these three players get a lot of the accolades, they have a balanced pack who work for each other with Kaustio Magele and Saunda Seumanatafa doing a lot of the tackling in the middle.

The forwards build the platform then player of the competition Besse Aufaga-Toomaga takes over from the back injecting himself into the backline causing havoc for the opposing team. Youngster Elone Taufa, playing in his first full year of seniors, has settled in beautifully. He has been the standout centre scoring 14 tries.

Aufaga-Toomaga and Taufa have scored a majority of the Eagles tries but it wouldn't be possible without some tremendous ball received from the inside backs led by uncompromising halves in Sami and Naidu.

Wingers Schwalger and Timai have also been very dangerous on the flanks and have crossed for several of their own tries.

Why Goodna will win: The old adage "too big too strong'' describes this Eagles outfit. They start fast and bulldoze teams early setting up the victory in the first half.

Scoring tries outwide doesn't hurt them as they have the best sharp shooter in the game in Besse Aufaga-Toomaga. Goodna has experienced players like Filipine and Phillips who will lead by example.

Why they will lose: Goodna's second halves have been a little worry for them as they have switched off in a few games this year letting opposition teams score late tries.

The heat may play a factor with a hot day forecast. If they fall behind early then discipline may drop giving Norths a big advantage.

Action from the Volunteers Cup semi-final between Norths Tigers and Toowoomba Valleys at the North Ipswich Reserve. Picture: Bruce Clayton
Action from the Volunteers Cup semi-final between Norths Tigers and Toowoomba Valleys at the North Ipswich Reserve. Picture: Bruce Clayton

 

Norths: The Tigers are coming into this grand final winning six out 10 fixture games and a superb semi-final win over the more fancied Valleys outfit.

The Tigers don't have a lot of flair in their game but they do have a steely look in defence which has won them the majority of games this season.

The forward pack is led by Chris Scanlon who gives the Tigers faithful a massive commitment every time he pulls on the blue and yellow jersey. He will not be afraid to put his body on the line when required.

While Scanlon will be doing a lot of tackles, he will be helped in this department by hooker Dylan Martin who will be at his niggling best. He will leave nothing in the tank come full-time.

Last weekend's semi-final was won in the first 20 minutes as Ethan Page was on a one-man destroying mission against Valleys as he hunted their forward pack into submission.

The Tigers forward pack is not huge but it does have a lot of workers who do their job and work for each other like Olive, Newton, Fisher, Reid and Haug.

You can also throw in Gerico Cecil who had one of his best games last week.

Coach Newton will be hoping for a repeat effort.

The Norths backline is under rated but get the job done week in week out with great combinations and this starts in the halves with Lewis Smith and Ritchie Lowe combining well and giving some great ball to their outside backs.

Centre Tonga Mounga is as safe as a bank in both attack and defence. He is the calming influence that some of the youngsters need in times of despair.

Anava Fesolai is the go-to man outwide and is a damaging runner of the ball who is not afraid to mix it in the forwards if required.

Fullback Luke Self has enjoyed a strong first season back at the Tigers and has the flair to cause Goodna problems around the rucks or slicing into the backline.

Why Norths will win: Coach Mick Newton has found the way to beat Goodna by inflicting their only loss for the season in Round 7. He will be copying that game plan.

The forward pack will work all day trying to seal up the middle of the field which will frustrate the bigger Goodna forwards. The Tigers have the X-factor in Kyle Blackman who has been fantastic playing in either the backs and forwards.

Goodna might have the best goalkicker in the competition but Norths have the second best in Tonga Mounga.

Why Norths will lose: They don't have the punch through the middle like Goodna do so will require a lot more effort from the forwards who will feel the heat. Norths have had a few discipline problems in some games this year.

The Tigers are not a good team chasing points so a strong Goodna start will hurt them.

Who will win: It's going to be a tight match with the team that controls the ball and completes their sets the best having the bigger advantage. Goodna will use their big forwards to lay the platform while Norths will have the forwards cutting them down in the middle.

Besse Aufaga-Toomaga is the player from Goodna that might swing the game their way while Blackman is the player that will sway the game Norths way.

Cancel out the goal kicking as both sides have a dead eye kicker who can slot them from any part of the field. The heat might be the factor that affects one of the sides so interchanges will be of high importance.

I am tipping a close game with a field goal to decide this contest.

Quick thoughts

POSITIVES: 1. What a mighty performance from the Wallabies. They may have only drawn the Bledisloe game against the All Blacks but showed tremendous heart from start to finish.

2. They have been the best team all year and the LA Lakers confirmed themselves as this year's NBA Champions winning the series 4-2.

3. The NRL and AFL will decide who will play in their respective grand finals with four mouth-watering preliminary finals set down. If you support the Panthers, Storm, Rabbits, Raiders (NRL) or Power, Lions, Tigers, Cats (AFL) then you are still a chance of playing in the Big Dance.

NEGATIVES: 1. Mighty mare Winx has lost her first foal weeks before giving birth. It's heartbreaking for everyone connected to the superstar horse.

2. Holden supporters get their last chance to see their iconic car this weekend with Holden just about dead and buried.

Sporting birthdays

1. 1962: Manute Bol - Sudanese born professional basketballer who played 624 games in the NBA for several clubs.

2. 1975: Jacques Kallis - South African cricketer who is regarded as one of the greatest all-rounders to play the game.

3. 1985: Casey Stoner - Australian motorcyclist who was the 2007 MotoGP world champion.

4. 1997: Naomi Osaka - Japanese tennis player who has won the US Open twice (2018, 2020).

On this day

1. 1963: American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously give the Black Power salute as their receive their medals at the Mexico City Olympics.

2. 1978: Indian superstar cricketer Kapil Dev makes his Test debut against Pakistan.

3. 2004: A 17yo Lionel Messi makes his league debut for Barcelona against Espanyol.

4. 2016: Ed Whitlock at 85yo becomes the oldest person to complete a marathon, running three hours, 56 minutes in Toronto.