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The Papua New Guinea Hunters created history – and made a whole country delirious with excitement and national pride – when they won the Queensland Cup grand final in Brisbane on Sunday.
The Hunters came from behind, scoring a try from the final play of the game, to defeat the Sunshine Coast Falcons 12-10 and become the first non-Queensland team since Tweed Heads in 2007 to win the Queensland Cup.
So, in celebration of their win, here are the six best comebacks in Intrust Super Cup–Queensland Cup grand finals since the competition began back in 1996.
1997 – Redcliffe Dolphins 18 defeated Easts Tigers 16 at Suncorp Stadium
Narrowly beaten in the 1996 grand final by Toowoomba, fast-finishing Redcliffe Dolphins overturned a ten-point deficit to claim an improbable maiden Queensland Cup title.
Tries to Leon Yeatman and Dale Williams saw Easts lead 12-0 before Redcliffe’s Anthony Singleton scored a try and converted it. When winger Rob Braun touched down, the Tigers opened up a ten-point lead, but with 14 minutes to play a Peter Robinson cut-out pass found second-rower James Hinchey to cross out wide for Redcliffe.
Singleton nailed the sideline conversion and he would soon be the Dolphins’ hero. With one minute on the clock and on the fifth tackle, Redcliffe spun the ball left and Hinchey caught another cut-out pass, this time from Tony Gould, and stumbled over the line.
Ice-cool Singleton landed the match-winning conversion from out wide after the fulltime siren.
1998 – Norths Devils 35 defeated Wests Panthers 16 at Suncorp Stadium
A 16-point lead at any stage of a grand final should be enough to get a team over the line for a premiership win, but the 1998 decider saw Norths go on a stunning scoring spree to win big over Wests.
Two tries to halfback Jason Twist and one four-pointer to winger Mark Maguire saw the underdog Panthers side race out to a seemingly commanding 16-0 lead after 25 minutes.
However, Norths centre and future Melbourne Storm premiership winner Matt Geyer snuck through the defence and ran 20 metres to score soon after, and an Anthony Bonus try four minutes after halftime saw Wests’ lead reduced to four points.
A long-range try from hat-trick hero Geyer and John Wilshere’s sideline conversion saw Norths lead for the first time with 20 minutes remaining before the Devils scored three more tries to register 35 unanswered points.
2004 – Burleigh Bears 22 defeated Easts 18 at Suncorp Stadium
It’s the comeback that led to the first extra time Queensland Cup grand final. Converted tries to Adam Hayden and Nick Shaw saw Burleigh lead 12-0 after 12 minutes and the Bears took a 16-6 lead into halftime, before former Australian centre Steve Renouf crossed in the corner for Easts soon after the break.
With his side down 18-12 with 30 seconds left to play, Easts halfback Dane Campbell placed a deft chip kick over the Bears defensive line on the halfway line, flying winger Steve Beattie gathered the ball, split two Burleigh tacklers and sprinted 40 metres to score. Campbell kicked the vital conversion from out wide to tie the scores at 18-18 and send the grand final to sudden death extra time.
After Campbell missed a field goal attempt, Burleigh prop Shane O’Flanagan scored the match-winning try 17 minutes into extra time.
2011 – Wynnum Manly Seagulls 16 defeated Tweed Heads Seagulls 10 at Suncorp Stadium
The battle of the two Seagulls teams – one from Brisbane and the other from northern New South Wales – saw Wynnum Manly claim its first top-grade crown in 16 years. But Wynnum Manly, led by rookie coach and future NRL title winner Paul Green, had to work hard for the grand final win.
Tweed Heads led 10-0 midway through the first half with tries to Tim McCann and Cody Nelson. Wynnum Manly hit back 20 seconds before halftime when fullback Jake Granville scored, collecting Matt Seamark’s grubber kick on play one following a scrum win ten metres out from Tweed Heads’ line.
Wynnum Manly hit the lead soon after halftime through a Seamark try before the bayside team, featuring ex-Australian Kangaroo Dane Carlaw and future New Zealand Warrior Charlie Gubb, wrapped up the win when Shea Moylan crossed with eight minutes left.
2013 – Mackay Cutters 27 defeated Easts Tigers 20 at North Ipswich Reserve
Mackay won its maiden Intrust Super Cup title when Michael Morgan and player of the match Anthony Mitchell orchestrated the Cutters’ grand final win over Easts. In a contest that saw scores tied for almost 30 minutes, Mackay twice came from behind to win 27-20.
A converted Junior Sa’u try and a Cody Walker penalty goal saw Easts lead 8-0 before Mackay hit back to lead 10-8 with two tries to Bureta Faraimo. Easts then went up 14-10 when Walker converted Sa’u’s second try before scores were tied at 14-14 with 17 minutes left, then Morgan sprinted 50 metres down the sideline to score in the corner following an Easts knock-on on halfway.
The teams were soon all square at 20-20 following a converted try to Easts forward and current Leeds Rhino Mitch Garbutt, but a late field goal and converted try saw Mackay claim a seven-point victory.
2017 – Papua New Guinea Hunters 12 defeated Sunshine Coast Falcons 10 at Suncorp Stadium
The vast majority of the largest crowd for a Queensland Cup grand final had travelled to Suncorp Stadium hoping for a historic maiden grand final win for Papua New Guinea’s team, the Hunters.
However, they looked anything like minor premiers as Sunshine Coast cruised to a 10-0 lead after just seven minutes. Flying winger Matthew Soper-Lawler scored after just 100 seconds and then Joe Stimson crossed.
The Hunters’ defence strengthened but multiple handling errors cruelled their scoring chances. Papua New Guinea broke through two minutes after halftime when Watson Boas scored a try after the Falcons spilled a grubber kick.
With just 90 seconds left on the clock, Willie Minoga grounded an Ase Boas grubber kick to tie the scores, before Boas converted to give the Hunters its first lead of the game with time almost elapsed.