Townsville Bulletin

Relief as Brothers survive thriller

- MATTHEW ELKERTON

IT was physical, desperate and in the end it came down to a single missed penalty.

Brothers have finally squared away four years of heartache to reach the grand final stage for the first time since they did the Premier League double in 2017.

But they had to go about it the hard way, surviving a seesawing 120 minutes of bruising football before lacing fivefrom-five from the spot in the shootout.

Fittingly, it was courageous skipper Matty Richards who led the side through a long season and smashed the final shot past Saints Eagles South goalkeeper Liam Murray.

But the match-defining moment came more than 30 minutes earlier when goalkeeper Mikel Breckenrid­ge made a full-length dive to his right to keep out a Campbell Hume spot-kick in regular time.

The veteran keeper had only just been shown a yellow for the first time this season for his hit on Aden Ibrahim in the box, but he shook off the collision and showed his experience between the posts.

The save kept the scores level at 2-2 after a back and forth contest.

Relief and excitement washed over the Brothers camp after the dust settled from the shootout, as the realisatio­n of what awaits them next weekend set in.

“It has been a long time (since we have been to the grand final),” Richards said. “It has been a long time coming. We have had some good squads (in that time) but we let ourselves down over the years. It is good to finally get back in it. I think it was just fatigue across the board (in the second half).

“We have done a lot of fitness work through the year, and I think that helped us get over the top of them towards the end but we just couldn’t find that winner.

“It was hot and humid but the boys stuck in and got the job done.”

It was a tough way for Saints Eagles South to end their campaign for back-toback premier league titles after they had started the preliminar­y final in blistering fashion, with a goal to Hume inside the first minute.

The Eagles took the lead a second time in the second half after a runaway goal to Damien Hodgetts but could not maintain it for long after Jay Eurell struck back minutes later with a shot that took a deflection past Murray.

While it was a bruising and physical clash, Richards said it would not change Brothers’ approach to grand final week, with the skipper adamant the emphasis they had put on fitness this season would shine through.

Brothers midfielder Jacob Hurney will be the side’s only injury concern after he limped from the field late in the game.

“It will be business as usual for us,” he said.

“We have put in the hard work all year, the boys are fit. There were a couple of cramps going around but all in all the boys are in good shape.

“I think Tuesday might be a bit of a light session but it will be business as usual and we will come in ready.”

BROTHERS 2 (J Eurell, L Phelps goals) def SAINTS EAGLES SOUTH

(C Hume, D Hodgetts goals) (5-4)

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