NEAFL, grand final
Who: Queanbeyan Tigers (Eastern) v Brisbane Lions (Northern)
Where: Manuka Oval
When: Saturday, 11.30am
THE wins may have come in 2012 but Queanbeyan Tigers captain Ryan Quade says the club’s historic NEAFL premiership victory last weekend was born during the struggles of 2011.
On Sunday, the Tigers capped off one of the most remarkable revivals in Queanbeyan sporting history to take out the NEAFL Eastern Conference grand final at a sun drenched Manuka Oval.
Queanbeyan’s 30-point victory over the Sydney Swans Reserves was a testament to the club’s indomitable spirit. A team of tradies and part-time players, rolling the pride of the league in comprehensive fashion.
But in the aftermath of Queanbeyan’s victory, Quade was in no doubt that the club’s road to Manuka Oval began in those trying times.
“A lot of blokes worked their butt off last year without getting the results,” he said. “But we blooded a lot of the young boys who played a lot of senior footy last season and I think that really came through this year.
“Blokes like Kaine Stevens and Will Griggs, those guys stepped up to another level.
“We got a few new recruits in this season but I reckon it’s those guys who’ve been here for the past few years who really stepped up and who made themselves count.”
Stevens, who was awarded the Alex Jesaulenko medal as best on ground, is a case in point of a player who has flourished this season after last year’s trial by fire.
While the 20-year-old was proclaimed as the Tigers best on grand final day, the side did not lack for stars as Queanbeyan was forced to withstand an almighty late fightback from the Sydneysiders.
After the Tigers had seen a six-goal lead whittled down to just nine points midway through the final term, a crucial goal to Quade served to steady the Tigers ship.
From there Queanbeyan never looked back as a barrage of late majors to Ben King, Daniel Campbell, Roy Jaques and Mitch Daniher secured the result.
Campbell finished the match with five goals for Queanbeyan, as did fellow forward James Kavanagh while Daniher was inspired all match off the half-back flank.
For Quade meanwhile, last Sunday’s victory marked the culmination of a premiership dream that began as a youngster in the late 1980s, growing up at the club then coached by his dad Brian.
While he would go on to win a grand final in 2005, ironically as a top-up player with the Swans, Quade was in no doubt as to the special place this year’s success would hold in his heart.
“This is something I’ve wanted my whole life,” Quade said in the dressing sheds following Queanbeyan’s win.
“It’s a whole lot more special to win a premiership with the club you’ve been at for so many years and where you’ve worked so hard for so long.
“Dad has won a few premierships here as a coach and I always wanted to have that success as well. To do it with this group of guys that I’ve come through with is something I’ll never forget.”
Despite the magnitude of Queanbeyan’s victory, the side was given little chance to celebrate in the lead up to this Saturday’s cross-conference NEAFL grand final against the Brisbane Lions.
But Quade said a win this weekend would simply be icing on the cake of what has already been one of the club’s most successful campaigns.
“This is the one that counts,” Quade said of the side’s Eastern Conference triumph.
“[This weekend] we’ll give it everything we’ve got but to be honest, the club hasn’t won a premiership in 12 years so what we’ve already done this season means the world to everyone here.”