FINALS RIDE: The Central Comets received a hero’s send-off at Rockhampton Airport yesterday ahead of today’s Queensland Cup preliminary final against the Northern Pride.
FINALS RIDE: The Central Comets received a hero’s send-off at Rockhampton Airport yesterday ahead of today’s Queensland Cup preliminary final against the Northern Pride.

Barnett tips an epic encounter

RUGBY LEAGUE: Lunch at a pub may not look like the ideal preparation for a big game but it has the Central Comets primed for a tilt at history.

The Comets received a hero's send-off yesterday ahead of today's Queensland Cup preliminary final against the Northern Pride at Wynnum's Kougari Oval in Brisbane.

Yesterday's departure followed a team lunch at the Brunswick Hotel - a big supporter of the Comets in 2009 - as Wayne Barnett's men maintain their finals pact.

The Comets enjoyed a team breakfast before last weekend's thrilling 21-14 home semi-final win over the Sunshine Coast at Browne Park and Barnett hopes there is one last supper next week.

“We set a plan five weeks ago leading into these finals to have breakfast, lunch and dinner together,” Barnett said yesterday.

“We've knocked off two of them that we've planned so we've got one to go and that takes us to the big week.

“The vibe of the boys is excellent, they've got a bit of self-belief back that they can do it and we're in with a shot.”

The Comets will be as per program in today's ABC television game, with utility back Junior Auru travelling with the team as 18th man.

“This week's been pretty exciting for us,” Barnett said.

“It's been a good thing we've had no injuries and we're really looking forward to the weekend.

“It's a big game for the blokes involved and also for the extended squad - it's just a fantastic week for the boys.”

The Comets kept the Sunshine Coast scoreless in the second half last weekend, with co-captain Nat Bowman sealing the win with a late field goal.

But it was the effort and attitude in defence, led by tireless back-rower Guy Williams, which put a smile on Barnett's face.

“We've had a mantra through the whole year which is 'attitude, defence and completions' and I think if we do those three things you've got a game 99% won,” he said.

The Pride, who thrashed Norths 44-16 in their home semi in Cairns last weekend, find themselves in familiar territory as they strive to go one better than last year.

In a heart-breaking finish to their debut season in the Queensland Cup, the Pride was denied a grand final berth after being beaten by eventual premiers Souths Logan in an extra-time thriller.

With the Comets and Pride one win apiece in their two encounters this season, Barnett has been doing his homework this week.

Pride captain and former NRL player Chris Sheppard's halves combination with the dangerous Tom Humble and the form of experienced back Rod Jensen loom as the biggest threats.

Jensen - one of three players in today's game alongside Comets duo Matt Sing and PJ Marsh to have played over 100 NRL games - scored a hat-trick in week one of the finals.

“I've been doing a little bit extra video work on them and there's much of a muchness between them and us,” Barnett said.

“It's going to be who wants to turn up and play an 80-minute game - it's going to be an arm wrestle.”

Barnett said victory today and booking a place in next weekend's grand final would be something special for everyone involved.

“We're very grateful with all the support we're getting,” he said.

“For the last 10 years we haven't done that well and when we have done well the year after we've done poorly.

“We're a bunch of guys that have been together for three years now and it's all been leading up to this point.

“It's make or break on Saturday at two o'clock and I hope it's making and rather than breaking.”



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