POWERS COLLIDE: Norths and Fassifern will do battle in today's showpiece event, the Rugby League Ipswich A-Grade grand final.
POWERS COLLIDE: Norths and Fassifern will do battle in today's showpiece event, the Rugby League Ipswich A-Grade grand final. Rob Williams

The motivation driving Tigers, Bombers ahead of decider

"BOTTLE it. Use it as motivation next year.”

Rugby League Ipswich chairman David Nugent has already written the script for the Fassifern Bombers ahead of their return to the A-Grade decider today.

Remember what losing felt like. Use that memory - harness it, make sure you do not feel that pain again.

Nugent is not alone in his assessment.

Many from the outside looking in would reasonably believe the grand final defeat to Goodna last year is a major motivating factor for the Bombers to go one better today.

But not so much in the eyes of coach Daniel Roos.

"The motivation is that we're in a grand final,” he said.

"The motivation comes from each player not wanting to let their teammates down, who they've been playing with all year.”

You could count on one hand the amount of times the grand final loss has been brought up within the Bombers group this season.

Roos has been careful not to let that disappointment define their 2018 season.

"You want to win the grand final. That's the goal every team has at the start of the year,” he said.

"Our goal is to go one better, but it's not something we've really discussed throughout. It's been game at a time - focus on this game and then onto the next game.”

But that is not to say there are no external motivating factors at play within this Fassifern group today.

Aaron Adcock missed last season's decider.

That is his motivation.

The competition's leading point-scorer suffered a knee injury in the preliminary final win over Norths the week prior, and was forced to watch from the sideline.

That memory, of being no use to his teammates in the biggest game of the season, still burns in the five-eight's mind.

"He was gutted last year when he couldn't play,” Roos said of the A-Grade Player of the Year.

"He was a big loss for us in the grand final. I know he's looking forward to making amends.”

Adcock will take his place on the field today. But his early season halves partner and captain will not.

Mitchell Range's season was ended prematurely by a dangerous tackle in a match against Goodna in round 15.

A month prior, forward Paul Jackwitz went in for a regulation tackle early in the round 10 clash with Swifts, and came out with a fractured vertebrae, torn spinal ligaments and a damaged disc.

Range and Jackwitz would love nothing more than to take the field with their teammates today.

The two proud Bombers are just another example of a grand final tough luck story. But they will still have an impact.

"Both Rangey and Jacko, since their injuries they've still come to training, still had input with the guys,” Roos said.

"I run ideas past them. It's been good having that support. Especially Rangey, as the captain, he's kept that role to a degree and still talks to the players.

"Both he and Jacko will run water for us in the grand final.”

Fassifern enter the grand final on a 16-game winning run.

Often clinical and rarely unconvincing - the Bombers were clearly the best side over the regular season.

After the first three rounds at least.

"The feeling after we lost the game against Goodna, we knew we didn't play bad, we just got outplayed,” Roos said of the round one defeat.

"And then against West End (in round two); I think we completed at something like 35% for the whole game.”

The following week, the Bombers surrendered 30 unanswered points in a monster home defeat to Swifts.

That was a sliding doors moment.

"We had a few guys that went to CMC and let the team down,” Roos said of the Swifts loss.

"We spoke after that game - are you committed to winning games, or do we just want to make up the numbers?

"We spoke about having belief in each other and in the team.”

In round four, Fassifern travelled to the previously undefeated Brothers and put their stake in the ground.

A gritty 24-20 victory.

If the Swifts defeat would be the Bombers' low watermark, the Brothers win was their turning point.

They have not lost since. At times tested, but never have they faltered.

"The guys were disappointed, but they knew we could get better,” Roos said.

"I'd experienced the same sort of thing when I first started at the Bombers. We lost our first five games, then went on a run to make the grand final.”

This is a team which has conquered all before it.

"We've set some high standards for ourselves through the year,” Roos said.

"As long as they walk off the field knowing they've tried their hardest, that's as much as I can ask of them as a coach. We've been able to do that successfully so far.”

But premierships are not earned before September, and Roos knows his side still have a job to do.

"You always know with Norths they'll compete for the whole 80 minutes,” he said.

"You know they're not the biggest side, but they compete and compete and compete.

"In the Swifts game, they controlled the ball and that's probably what got them the win in the end.

"You know they'll play structured football, but also have that capability to go ad-lib.

"They'll definitely be a challenge. We'll have to play our best football if we're going to win.”

Winning today will not be vindication for last season.

Exorcising those demons is a non-issue for Roos.

Today is a fresh start; writing a new chapter, hopefully one of success.

"It would be good for the players,” Roos said.

"I know how much hard work they have put in at training. Being a player, you know what they put their body through.

"It would be good to look back at the year and say, 'yes, we did everything right this year'.

"It would be reward for the hard work they've put in since January.”

How they got there

Qualifying final: Fassifern Bombers 26 (Matthew Sledge, Leveni Kurimalawai, Marika Kuriyalavaou, Aaron Adcock, Kinivilliame Nauvasi tries; Aaron Adcock 3 goals) def. Swifts Bluebirds 22 (Jack Arrow-Smith, Fine Faingaa, Aurangzeb Nuuola, Pio Seci tries; Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku 3 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.

Norths big man thrives on being back with 'family'

SAM Martin has played in some big games over his career.

The 2015 State Championship is at the top of the list, when his Ipswich Jets were named National Champions in a 26-12 defeat of Newcastle at ANZ Stadium.

But before Martin became a Jet, he was first a Tiger.

And he has some unfinished business to attend to in today's grand final.

"Last time I played for Norths was the 2006 grand final, which we lost,” Martin said.

"For me, this is another big game. It's my junior club. For me to come back and play, this is pretty special.”

Making today even more special is that Martin gets to share the occasion with his brother, Dylan.

"We hadn't played together before this season,” Martin said.

"It would be pretty special to win a grand final together. With him and all my good mates, it would mean a lot.”

"Good mates” is the tip of the iceberg for how Martin feels about his Tiger teammates.

"At the moment we're like a little family,” he said.

"The culture is great. We just keep turning up for each other, week-in, week-out. It's been really good playing this year.”

Martin almost did not return to Norths this season. He was close to pushing the boots to the back of the closet, and enjoying life as a retired Queensland Cup footballer.

But his "little family” came calling, and Martin could not say no.

"I contemplated hanging them up this year, but all my mates got in my head again,” Martin said.

Win or lose today, Martin hinted it may be his last game. Or it may not.

"I don't know,” he said.

"At this stage it's year by year. We'll see how the body pulls up.”

The body to this point has held up just fine.

Martin has been a big player in the Tigers' run to the grand final.

But name value alone grants you very little at Norths. You have to earn every call-up, and perform with every hit-up.

"If you're playing in that A-Grade side, you're playing your heart out,” Martin said.

It is a special bond this Norths playing group shares.

It was obvious in the semi-final against Brothers. Down two on the bench and out of rotations, this Tiger team dug deep against a bitter rival and willed themselves over the line.

Swifts was the next test of the Tigers' premiership credentials.

In a rollercoaster match that ebbed and flowed, Norths survived eight lead changes to book their place in today's decider.

"They weren't worried when Swifts scored against them - or when Brothers scored the previous week - they knew to back themselves to score points,” RLI chairman David Nugent said of the Tigers.

"They were prepared to be patient.

"Against a side like Fassifern -who score points at will but also have a defence which holds teams to low scores . . . Norths will have to come up with a different plan than what they used against Swifts and Brothers.”

If there is one side - and one coach - with the means to upset the Fassifern juggernaut, it is Norths.

Nugent believes Tigers coach Mick Newton has quietly gone about ticking boxes as the season progressed, preparing for this moment.

"I think particularly in the senior ranks, these coaches pour over opposition games looking for weaknesses, as well as making sure their strengths are where they need to be,” Nugent said.

"In Mick's case, he's brought Josh Roberts on slowly. He knew it was a long season, he didn't bring him back too early.

"He knew if they could keep close enough, they would only need him to be right at this time of the year.

"No premiership is won in May or June. There's plenty lost, but none won.”

Newton's foresight may have impressed Nugent, but it's his calmness under pressure which Martin most appreciates.

"I've known him a long time, me and his son Tim are pretty much best mates,” Martin said.

"He's pretty cool, calm and collected. Even on the weekend, I was on the bench with him and he didn't show any emotion.

"It makes it easier for us. We trust him, and know not to go against him.”

That trust between player and coach is mutual.

Newton is rarely needed through the week. He leaves most of the work to his senior players.

Chris Scanlan was tongue-in-cheek when he said Newton "just rocks up, has a cookie and coffee and watches us train”.

"Guys like Timmy Newton, Scanlan, Josh Roberts and Jarrod Biggs, they run the show,” Martin said.

"It takes the pressure off Mick.”

How they got there

Semi-final: Norths Tigers 32 (Jarrod Biggs 2, Anava Fesolai 2, Tonga Mounga 2 tries; Jarrod Biggs 2, Dale McDonald 2 goals) def. Brothers Ipswich 20 (Michael Saili-Motu 3, Shane Gibson tries; Joe Bond, Cameron Picker goals) at North Ipswich Reserve

Preliminary final: Norths Tigers 32 (Timote Paseka 2, Jarrod Biggs, Drew Robinson, Ritchie Lowe, Dale McDonald tries; Jarrod Biggs 3, Dale McDonald goals) def. Swifts Bluebirds 30 (Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku, Keiran Saltner, Fine Faingaa, Pio Seci, Kurtis Lingwoodock tries; Ratunaisa Vatuinaruku 5 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.