Wallaroos skipper Shannon Parry has been given the all-clear to play for Easts in the quest for a third straight women’s premiership at Suncorp Stadium.
Backrower Parry has got lucky with Sunday’s decider falling between two training camps before the Wallaroos’ departure for the Rugby World Cup for women in New Zealand.
It’s a huge boost of expertise and calm-headed experience for such a big game against Bond University.
In all, the Tigers have five grand finals to stir club spirit over the weekend.
Fifths (noon), fourths (1.30pm) and thirds (3pm) play their deciders at Wests Rugby Club on Saturday before the women (11am) and Colts 1 (1pm) play their grand finals at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday before the Hospital Cup climax.
Parry is delighted. She already has four premierships to her CV since first playing for the Tigers in 2008. This is a new challenge with many teammates she has only met this season since a move home from Sydney.
“Any opportunity to play in a grand final is really exciting. The timing of the Wallaroos camps fell perfectly,” Parry said.
“Being able to play in the major semi-final showed me the girls can step up to the plate in a physical battle. That win brought the team closer together.
“The team has experience in the pack as well as young players like (flanker) Haidee Head who has come on in leaps and bounds with her involvement in the QAS Sevens program.”
The feeling is mutual with Head relishing the chance to play beside one of the finest women’s players that Queensland has produced.
“Shannon is awesome. It’s great to watch her, learn off her and play with her. She’s a great person as well,” Head said.
The strength of the Tigers starts up front with the authority of the front-row, Theresa Soloai, Tina Brown and Laina Cooper-Finau.
Parry sees a wider message in the success of the women’s team in recent seasons.
“It’s a credit to the leadership that resurrected the women’s team after years out of the comp. We are seeing more and more women and girls around the club which is great and you want to keep it going that way,” Parry said.
The fifths can get the party started on the weekend when they face Souths in the decider.
The fighting fifths upset University of Queensland 24-22 with a clutch late play in last weekend’s preliminary final just as they found a late winner in the knockout semi-final against Wests.
Halfback Mitch Gunning knocked over the angled conversion to win it after reserve winger Will Trendall scored a try on full-time.
“Those two wins have given us massive confidence for the grand final knowing that we play until the final whistle,” Gunning said.
Centre Keegan Sefton is back in the side.
Fourths play Brothers while thirds are humming for their grand final against Brothers after their heroics to topple Souths 27-22 in the prelim final.
Hooker Reynor Guildford might have dreamed of one day scoring a try that involved breaking three tackles plus a chip-and-chase.
He happily settled for a rolling maul surge to the tryline from close range.
“We defended on our own line for a lot of the last 15 minutes and some of it when down to just 13 men (because of two yellow cards),” Guildford said.
“It was a huge effort from everyone to not concede a point when down to 13 men.”
Third grade coach Mark Hanham added: “That’s the attitude we’ve now got to bring to a grand final.”
Third grade is really a melting pot of what Easts is all about with youngsters and older hard heads. Players come from a variety of backgrounds in construction, the corporate world, teaching, youth work, administration or life as a mechanic in the case of Rick Portingale.
The experience of players like halfback Ben Littleton, who shared in the 2020 third grade title, will count for plenty if things get tight.
Colts 1 meet the vaunted UQ in the decider after a thrilling 24-23 victory was earned over Brothers in last weekend’s preliminary final.
Flyhalf Taj Annan sunk his left boot into the winning conversion on full-time after reserve backrower Kaan Askew scored a last-gasp try.
“It wasn’t good for the heartrate as a coach but it was great for the boys’ confidence. We just hung in there. The more we held the ball, the more we put the pressure on,” coach Tyrell Barker said.
Props Dom Mifsud and Tane Pardoe get a shot at redemption after falling short in last year’s Colts grand final.
Referee George Myers must have wondered what sort of tornado he’d suddenly been caught up in when he whistled the Askew try and centre Jarrod Homan almost leapt over him into the raucous Tigers’ celebrations.
GRAND FINAL WEEKEND
Saturday, September 17 Venue: Wests Rugby Club
Fifth Grade – 12:00pm: Easts v Souths
Fourth Grade – 1:30pm: Easts v Brothers
Third Grade – 3:00pm: Easts v Brothers
Sunday, September 18 Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Women – 11:00am: Easts v Bond University
Colts 1 – 1:00pm: Easts v University of Queensland