CQ Cup decider: Meteors ready for ‘foes from down the road’
LIFTING that long-awaited piece of premiership silverware will be made that much sweeter by knocking off the “foes from down the road”, says Meteors coach Joel Khalu.
Mackay’s so-far perfect ConocoPhillips CQ Cup campaign will come to a close at The Crater on Saturday night in a grand final match-up many anticipated when the competition format was first floated.
Long-time rivals the Rockhampton Rockets will be the final barrier Khalu’s side must hurdle to reclaim CQ basketball bragging rights.
“When it comes to it our fans love the rivalry; we love the rivalry,” Khalu said.
“This is another one where you get to play a grand final against the foes from down the road. I think it adds an element to it.
“Bragging rights between the two associations are always pretty high.
“We obviously don’t want to go 12 months knowing that they beat us at home in anything.”
The Meteors are two from two against the Rockets this season and that record, alongside their blemish-free run through the CQ Cup so far, will have them instilled as firm favourites for the title.
“It’s a bit more pressure on us I think going in as probably the favourites and making sure we do what we gotta do to walk out of here with that cup in our hands,” Khalu said.
Key to that will be managing the pressure that comes with grand final favouritism.
The Rockets will travel north with a nothing-to-lose attitude, knowing few but themselves fancy their chances.
That can be dangerous in one-off deciders, Khalu said.
But his is a roster stacked with championship-winning experience, so the coach is not too concerned.
“You can’t replace championship experience. That’s something you have to earn by winning,” Khalu said.
“When you look at our group, Rassy (Brad Rasmussen) and Gambo (Mitch Gamblin) have been around and played in all three of those QBL championships that the Meteors won so those guys, they know what it takes when it gets tight, in those big moments.”
Though not the NBL1 North silverware Khalu hoped to be vying for this season, the coach said a CQ Cup crown would be the best possible way to end what has been a tough year for all involved.
“I think for us it gets us back on the track of winning again,” he said.
“It’s been a few years since our men’s and women’s teams have had success at a QBL level.
“While it is the CQ Cup, you’re still playing to win something.
“For us I think this could really set us up for a big NBL1 North season next year, for both the men and women.
“It would be a really nice way to finish off what’s been a challenging year, particularly if both teams can get over the line.”