LAIDLEY earnt its right to meet Lowood Tarampa in this weekend's Challenge Cup grand final.
You would scarcely have believed it mid-season if you were told reigning premiers Springfield would not be in the decider. But such is the case after Laidley beat the Panthers 20-10 at the North Ipswich Reserve yesterday.
The teams were locked 4-all at half-time and Springfield looked on track when they scored four minutes into the second half.
But from there the tide turned noticeably with the Lions becoming more dominant as the game wore on as Springfield lapsed into errors.
Perhaps it was the effect of the midday heat on the big Panthers forwards in their black jerseys but they didn't look like the team that has dominated the Challenge Cup for most of its short history.
"I'm a little bit heart-broken," Springfield captain Corey Kirk said. "A little bit shattered."
Kirk has been forced to watch as the Challenge Cup went from five teams at the start of the season to three. Along the way he saw his teammates' enthusiasm disappear and players go missing.
The diluted competition meant teams would often go weeks without a game and at Springfield it took a big toll.
"When the cup got reduced to three teams, we found it tough to keep the players' commitment up," Kirk said.
"With a team in C grade (Second Division), a lot of blokes were playing two games a week."
Kirk didn't mean to detract from the efforts yesterday of Laidley who thoroughly earned their win.
"There's no excuses," Kirk said. "We probably fielded our strongest team available. But Laidley played well and deserved it."
When Springfield opened up a big lead at the head of the competition mid-season, it appeared their second Challenge Cup title was almost inevitable.
Too good for the rest in the Challenge Cup it seemed, this Springfield team's future lay in the Ipswich Rugby League A grade competition.
But their second half to the season, which coincided with a number of the club's committee standing down, indicates they are well off fielding an A grade side.
"You've got to have the financial backing, which we don't have," said Kirk, who played several seasons of A grade for Goodna.
"We're a struggling club.
"A couple of our executive members bailed out mid-year which messed us up again.
"To go to A grade, you've got to have depth right through the club, which we don't."