RARING TO GO: The last time Stanthorpe and Gatton met the Gremlins slumped to a narrow loss. But going into their semi-final tie the Granite Belt side are full of confidence.
RARING TO GO: The last time Stanthorpe and Gatton met the Gremlins slumped to a narrow loss. But going into their semi-final tie the Granite Belt side are full of confidence. Ann Bichel

Gremlins tuned for finals bout

RUGBY LEAGUE: The build up to the Toowoomba Rugby League finals series is well under way on the Granite Belt as acting coach Trevor Baker and his band of Gremlins compare notes and fine tune their game plan this week in preparation for Sunday's Clive Berghofer 2nd Division qualifying semi-final against the Gatton Hawks.

Respected Gremlins mentor 'Megsy' Irwin returns to the bench this weekend to steer his side in their biggest challenge of the season so far.

The Hawks finished second and Stanthorpe third in the premiership ladder order of merit, Sunday's winner stepping up the following weekend to meet minor premiers the Newtown Lions, the winner booking a seat in the 2019 Grand Final at Clive Berghofer Stadium.

Both sides have had a confident approach to Sundays semi-final, the Gremlins having won their two last starts and, while Gatton endured a forfeit by Valleys last weekend, they won a tough preceding match against Warwick.

The Gremlins last finals series experience was just last year under then captain/ coach and current skipper Gary Skimmings, the club's initial season in the TRL second division premiership.

Twelve months has passed since they were denied 28 - 24 in the dying moments of the knockout-semi final at Toowoomba's Glenholme Park, a try in the final minutes by opponents the Pittsworth Danes saw the curtains fall on the Stanthorpe club's season.

Experienced back-rower Skimmings was a member of the last Stanthorpe side to taste premiership glory, back in 2015 in the final Border League decider when the Damian Petrie captain/ coached Gremlins rolled the Wallangarra Rams in a historic clash.

Back-rower Nate Stibbard has an inkling 2019 is the 'Year of the Gremlin', the ideal icing on the cake that is the 100th anniversary of rugby league in Stanthorpe.

"The Gremlins are a good chance if we play the way we did against Goondiwindi last weekend,” Stibbard said.

"If we stick to the game plan we will trouble Gatton.”

Absentee from the win over Goondiwindi Jarrod Irwin returns to wear the five-eighth number '6' jersey, combining with 18 year old half Jake Burnell.

Burnell has certainly answered the call since filling a halfback void brought about by a season ending injury to Toowoomba representative playmaker Regan Sullivan.

Gremlins front-row trio of hooker Michael Marini and bookends Nic Marsh and Nigel Bonetto will lead their pack forward, no easy task against the physical Gatton Hawks engine room that boast size and mobility.

The Hawks finished 10 - 6 victors on their home paddock at Cahill Park in their only 2019 season clash with Stanthorpe back in late May.

Unforced errors limited the Gremlins' opportunities as the Round 8 match moved into the final stages of a contest that saw players vent their frustrations on more than one occasion.

The stage is set for a match played in a similar mood on Sunday morning with the added intensity of finals football, both the Hawks and the Gremlins very aware to lead on the scoreboard as the full time hooter wails will open a gate just a step away from the grand final.

The Gremlins squad to run on to Clive Berghofer Stadium at 10am on Sunday is:

1. Jacob Rashleigh, 2. Steven Foster, 3. Josh Wren, 4. Lachlan Hendry, 5. Chris Reid, 6. Jarrod Irwin , 7. Jake Burnell, 8. Nigel Bonetto, 9. Michael Marini, 10. Nicolas Marsh, 11. Nathan Stibbard, 12. Zachery Hendry, 13. Gary Skimmings (C), 14. Jon Warr, 15. Thomas Bonner, 16. Will McPaul, 17. Samuel Miles, 18. Riley Taylor, 19. Aaron Abraham & 20. Jason Cobon. Coach: 'Megsy' Irwin. Manager: Trevor Baker.