MSHS v St Pat’s: Finals, trophies and all the glory
IT'S winner takes all, loser leaves with nothing when Mackay State High School and St Patrick's College battle it out for hometown bragging rights and a place in the Aaron Payne Cup semi-finals tonight.
The storied schoolboys rugby league rivalry will soon write its latest chapter and if the most recent pages are anything to go by, it promises to be a classic.
With fourth spot and a finals berth on offer for the victor, a meeting between these two proud schools has rarely had so much at stake.
Rowan Graham and Chad Buckby know that better than most.
The calm before the storm allows both to smile and share a laugh but deep down, the two committed coaches have long since set their minds ahead of tonight's kick-off.
St Pat's boast a three-year winning streak over their rivals from Milton Street and on recent form will likely enter as favourites to make it four on the trot.
Don't expect it to come easy though, says Mackay coach Graham.
"Plain and simple we just want to win this game of football," he said.
"Regardless of whether we were 4-4 or 0-4, this is the game of footy we want to win. And the boys will be up for it."
Buckby has been the architect of St Pat's modern dominance over Mackay State High School. His sides have rarely lost the cross-town battle since his coaching tenure began five years ago.
But very few have had as much to play for as tonight's encounter and with a shiny new shield also up for grabs, this latest clash could well be the biggest.
"It's always nice to hold the bragging rights for the year," Buckby said.
"We got up last year, though they were pretty injury-depleted. That was our third win in a row, so we're keen to make it four this year.
"We've got a nice spot in the trophy cabinet … and we'd like to fill it again (tonight)."
There will be no surprises tonight. The players know each others' games inside and out - knowledge gleaned from years of battles.
The two teams are laden with top-tier talent and share the same burning desire to best the other. So what will be the difference? Where will the edge be found?
"In the single moments," Graham concluded.
"One thing might turn the whole game on its head. It could be anything - an injury, a refereeing decision, anything.
"I don't think there will be much between our schools."
"They need to keep their emotions in check," Buckby added.
"Formlines go out the window in these games. They've all played a lot of footy against each other so they know what's going to happen.
"It will be all about keeping a cool head, staying focused and playing a good brand of footy."
Big games are won by big game players and both sides are stacked in that department.
For St Pat's. it starts with hooker Toby Thorburn, who spurned an early invitation from the Canberra Raiders to stay in Mackay and lead his mates around the park one last time.
The captain has the ear of his teammates and respect of his rivals.
In the maroon and blue, look to captain courageous Damon Watson. He and co-captain Henri Stocks have proved their leadership credentials in tough games this season and will need to do so again on their biggest stage to date.
"It's the biggest game of the year in Mackay at a local level. Regardless of injuries, the points ladder or whatever, any bloke who takes the field (tonight) will be up for it," Graham said.
The Aaron Payne Cup clash kicks off at BB Print Stadium at 5.45pm.
Preceding that is the Cowboys Challenge match-up between Mercy College and Mackay State High School.
Both games will be streamed live on the Daily Mercury website.
Round 5 - Wednesday, August 25
(4.30pm) - Mackay SHS v Mercy College (Cowboys Challenge)
(5.45pm) - Mackay SHS v St Patrick's College (Aaron Payne Cup)