CRUSHERS under-13s face an undefeated Centrals Tigers in what will be an emotionally charged Grand Final in Townsville tomorrow.
Russell Jensen’s side finished second on the ladder and secured their final spot last week with a convincing 42-4 win over Brothers White, who finished third.
The Hinchinbrook side suffered the loss of 12-year-old team-mate Will Murdoch, who passed away in tragic circumstances earlier this year.
Jensen says the passing of his young charge had a devastating effect on his players – but that they have been inspired to fight for him on the field.
He said: ‘We lost Will and they had to battle through the emotional side of that.
‘We came through that and we’re still coming through that.
‘We’re still drawing inspiration from Will. We have been throughout the season.’
Crushers were well down against Centrals in their first play-off match two weeks ago, but rallied at half-time and clawed their way back into the game – rattling their opponents after the break before eventually losing by just two points.
Jensen added: ‘We were well down at half-time but came back and only lost by two.
‘They’re [Centrals] undefeated. We lost to them by six points earlier in the season and we just lost to them again a couple of weeks ago.
‘There’s going to be a bit of emotion attached to the game. But at the end of the day, I’ve just tried to tell them to stay focused on the game and play football.
‘It’s all about the game. Playing our best football.
‘We’ve got players across the field. It’s a collection. Everyone will have to play their best.
‘We’re not favourites. But if we can get the win it would be great for the team and great for everyone connected to the club.
‘All the volunteers and all the people who do so much.’
On his team’s preparations, he said: ‘They’re training hard and working hard. They’re training every week and doing everything I ask them to do.
‘They trained hard last night. They had great application.
‘I said to them: “Look guys, we’ve made it this far – now it’s up to us to do the best we can on the field”.’
The majority of this side have been together since they were under-8s.
Crushers lost the grand final last season to the same outfit they face tomorrow – and will have the whole of Hinchinbrook hoping they can come away as champions.
Jensen’s side retired Will’s number 9 jersey after a stunning comeback win at home earlier this season.
Whatever the result tomorrow, the boys have done their region proud.
The match kicks off at 10 am and is being played on the junior fields at Kern Brothers’ Drive in Kirwan.