Brisbane North Cougars and Brisbane East Tigers will renew their fierce rivalry on Sunday when the sides clash in the Samsung QSNL Division 1 grand final at University of the Sunshine Coast.
The Cougars put Brisbane West Lions to the sword 66-39 in their preliminary final last weekend to book a rematch with a Tigers side who defeated them by four points in the major semi-final.
Sunday’s decider will be the third straight grand final contested between the two heavyweights, with the Tigers looking for their first championship since 2014.
Cougars defender and newly-contracted Firebirds star Tara Hinchliffe said her side’s victory over the Lions sent out a warning shot to their rivals.
“We didn’t expect (such a big win) given how close our last game was, but we knew if we put the right performance together that it could happen,” she said.
“As a team it was a dominant performance by everyone down the whole court. The defence were great, the midcourt was great and the shooters were good too.
“We knew we needed to get that place in the grand final and nothing else would be acceptable. Now the job is done, we can concentrate on Tigers again this week. It’s just that long term competitiveness we share. The Cougars hate losing to the Tigers and that’s something that binds us together as a team. We’re working together to beat them.”
After defeating the Tigers twice through the regular season, Hinchliffe said her side would look to regather and reassert themselves following their major semi-final loss to the black and gold.
“A lot of it will be encouraging each other. If heads drop, we need someone to lift us back up – take that crucial intercept or shoot that goal that we need. As a team we need to look for each other and believe in each other,” she said.
“You sort of know what to expect, but Tigers are an experienced team and no doubt have a lot of tricks up their sleeve which we haven’t seen yet. We just need to prepare for what we can prepare for and be ready for whatever happens.
“We’ll keep things as normal as we can this week, but the intensity, spirit and vibe will be up. It’s more exciting and we have a bigger purpose this week than any other.”
Tigers goal shooter Beryl Friday will be personally contesting her sixth grand final in a row on Sunday.
She won premierships with the Tigers in 2012 and 2014, was a QSNL runner-up with the club in 2013 and was part of the Queensland Firebirds side who went back-to-back in the ANZ Championship in 2015 and 2016.
Friday said her side were refreshed from the week off and would leave no stone unturned in their preparation this week.
“Leading into finals we don’t want to change anything. We want to stick to our processes,” Friday said.
“We had a good team bonding session last Saturday and whenever we get a chance to spend that time together, we come back to training with a lot of enthusiasm. We’re looking forward to the week and working hard.
“Particularly in the last month or so we’ve really picked up our intensity. Our defenders know what their attackers are up to and will be able to come up with strategies to combat them. In attack, we just want to get the ball moving fast and stick to our guns.”
The Tigers employed a patient build-up in their major semi-final defeat of the Cougars, with up to two minutes elapsing between goals as they patiently moved the ball around the court and looked for their opening.
Friday said they would continue to treasure possession and match the intensity of their rivals.
“We’ve been trying to work on that this year. We talked about the Melbourne Vixens a lot and think they were a great team this year at Suncorp Super Netball level,” she said.
“They don’t throw a lot of possession away and that’s a culture they’ve built. We want to treasure possession and that was evident in the Cougars game – there weren’t a lot of balls going over the baseline.
“I like grand finals. They’re a lot of fun and personally I think I perform better in high pressure games. I just want to get out there and see how good I can play. It would be great to get the win.”