Cougars hold nerve to defeat Brisbane East Tigers in thrilling grand final

Brisbane North Cougars won their third straight Samsung QSNL Division 1 championship with a hard-fought 43-38 win over arch rivals Brisbane East Tigers at University of the Sunshine Coast on Sunday 25 June.

With the game on a knife edge throughout the final quarter, it was the Cougars who stood up and won vital ball to ice the game.

New Firebirds signing Tara Hinchliffe was outstanding in her final game for Brisbane North, igniting her side from the back and allowing midcourters Chanel Dyer and Dominique Scott to feed shooter Rylie Holland with great success.

The Cougars were pushed all the way by a game Tigers side led bravely by their captain Katie Walker, but ultimately showed greater poise in clutch moments to edge out their rivals.

The Tigers flew out to an early four goal lead in the first five minutes, employing the same patient build-up they perfected when they upset the Cougars two weeks prior in the semi-final.

Walker exchanged short sharp passes with her goalers Beryl Friday and Alexia Baker, while goal keeper Jacinta Messer took an early edge in her battle with Cougars shooter Rylie Holland.

But Brisbane North soon settled to show their class, with the defensive prowess Tara Hinchliffe coming into play as they won loose ball and rocketed the ball forward through wing attack Scott.

They rode their momentum to a 12-10 quarter time lead.

Scores held steady throughout the opening half of the second frame as both sides wrestled for control.

Cougars wing defence Maddie Hinchliffe injected herself into the contest with some fantastic grabs, while Tigers defender Jane Menzies returned fire with her partner Messer down the other end.

But the shooters gave as good as they got, with Friday and Holland settling to steady the ship for their respective sides and see the Cougars take a 22-21 lead into the big break.

The Cougars showed their championship class as the second half got underway, setting the tone with a turnover from the Tigers’ first centre pass.

At the back, Hinchliffe’s impeccable timing shone through as she picked the pockets of the Tigers’ midcourters on numerous occasions.

She was ably assisted by her centre courters Scott and Dyer, who buzzed around the attacking circle and fed Holland with impressive variety and accuracy.

The Tigers took two vital late intercepts to stay within reach as the Cougars buckled down to take a 34-30 lead into the final frame.

Easts bounced back with a big rebound early in the final quarter to narrow the margin to three.

The Cougars rallied to hold their advantage, with possessions exchanged on numerous occasions but neither side able to convert.

The Tigers had the chance to cut the margin to one with five to go, but a held ball was seized upon by Brisbane North to restore their original cushion.

It was all the encouragement the Cougars needed as they held strong to take a hard-fought 43-38 win.