As the biggest day of the year looms, I’ve had a look at how each of the four teams found themselves in the 2015 grand final.
Ladder Position: 1st
Head to head: 2-0
It’s hard to argue against Labrador being the best team in the QAFL to date.
They have handled every challenge thrown at them in the first half of the year in emphatic fashion.
Round 6 was a defining moment, when they became the first team to beat Morningside in over a year, getting the job done by 45 points.
At the half way mark, they were nine and zip, and clear flag favorites.
After a 90-point win over the Magpies in round 11, many pundits believed the Tigers would go through 2015 with a clean slate. Broadbeach had other ideas.
The next week, the Cats became the first team to beat them, doing it by 25-points.
Following another win over Morningside in round 15, Wilston Grange took advantage of the Tigers minus Hollis, Clarke and Baird, inflicting Labrador’s second loss of the year.
As for the finals so far, Labrador could not have been more convincing. The 55-point margin flattered the Gorillas’ in week two of the finals. The Tigers pressure and ball movement was supreme.
It was that win that booked them a spot in the grand final. With two weeks rest over three weeks, no doubt they will be fresh, primed, and ready to go come the bounce of the ball at 1:10pm this Saturday.
Ladder Position: 4
Head to head: 0-2
It’s been a very different path traveled for the Panthers this year compared to last, but no doubt about it, they are peaking at the right time of the year.
2015 started how 2014 finished. After round 5, they were undefeated, and looming very large.
While it wasn’t panic stations after a round 6 loss to Labrador, it did show that they would not have it all their way this year.
They bounced back with three convincing wins in the following weeks, before running into a Western Magpies roadblock in round 10.
A loss to Wilston Grange the following week dropped them to third on the ladder, and forced a bit of change in the way they went about it.
From that point, there became a real focus on the contested aspect of things, knowing that was where they were getting beaten.
Despite losing, they showed signs of improvement against Labrador in round 15, but a loss to Broadbeach two weeks later would change their whole approach to finals.
Instead of going in with a double chance, it dropped them to forth, placing them in an elimination final with Broadbeach.
They took that game in their stride, opening up the Cats out the back of the contest to win by 48-points, setting up a week two clash with the Magpies.
Despite trailing at three quarter time, Morningside turned it on in the last, kicking six unanswered goals to storm into a preliminary showdown with Wilston Grange last weekend.
The Panthers took what they did late against the Magpies, and produced it for four quarters against the Gorillas, in their best performance of the year.
Their contested game was as good as it has been, but they haven’t lost their ability to spread and carry.
Their form of late sets them up for a real crack this Saturday.
Ladder Position 2nd
Head to head: 2-2
2015 definitely started on the right foot for Coolangatta with a first up win over Coorparoo by 34-points.
It wasn’t until these two teams met again in round 9 that the Bluebirds would suffer their first loss in a two-point thriller.
It was smooth sailing for them for the month after that, with comfortable wins over Wilston Grange, UQ, Zillmere and Yeronga.
Their last four games of the home and away season saw them record just the one win, which came against Wilston Grange.
Coorparoo got them in round 15, Zillmere knocked them off in round 17, and Yeronga caught them on the hop in round 18 by 28-points.
After having the bye in the last round, they came into their finals series fresh, and it paid dividends.
In their first final, playing to book a spot in this week’s game against Coorparoo, they shook off their form slump to win by four-points in a nail bitter.
They now hold the mental edge, and have the advantage of a week off heading into Saturday’s game.
Ladder Position: 1st
Head to Head 2-0
It might not have been the ideal start to the year for Coorparoo, but they responded in the perfect way.
Their round 1 loss to Coolangatta-Tweed would be their only blemish for the rest of the home and away season, as they went on a 15 game winning streak heading into September.
In that time, they beat Coolangatta twice, and won every game bar one by over 30-points. You couldn’t ask for a much better performance than that.
When finals rolled around, unfortunately for them, they couldn’t capitalise on their opportunities in front of goal against the Bluebirds.
Coorparoo kicked 5.13 to Coolangatta’s 7.5 in the first final, meaning they had to front up last week against Yeronga in a prelim.
They didn’t drop their heads after the first loss, instead, coming out with a point to prove. They controlled the contest all day with the Devils, running away with a 48-point victory, with a ticket to the grand final in their hands.
You can expect Coolangatta to make the most of their opportunities in front of goal a big focus for Saturday’s game. That’ll be the first step in reversing the results from two weeks ago.
By Andrew Wiles – @andrewjwiles