Josh Searl played his 150th QAFL game in last year's grand final loss. (Photo: Broadbeach Cats Australian Football Club/Facebook)

After losing two QAFL grand finals in the past three years by less than 10 points, the Broadbeach Cats have an opportunity to right past wrongs and break their 25 year flag drought.

2020 was a year of September devastation for the Broadbeach Australian Football Club, as both the seniors and reserves side fell in their respective grand finals by less than 10 points.

It’s a day that might never leave the memories of Cats fans, their second grand final loss in three years.

12 months later, and they’ve got the chance to avenge the past. On Saturday, they’ll take on Maroochydore as they search to break a 25 year flag drought.

Broadbeach has won just two premierships in its 50 year history, both coming when they competed in the Gold Coast Australian Football League. When the GCAFL was absorbed by AFL Queensland in 1996, the Cats joined the QAFL after their premiership season.

That was the last time they lifted the cup, unable to make ground on powerhouses Southport and Morningside. The 2018 loss was the first time they reached the league’s final battle.

Captain Josh Searl has been with his beloved Cats through thick and thin, enduring the hard years before finally getting his chance to lead out his boys on the biggest stage in Queensland.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, the captain says while looking to the past hasn’t been the focus of the week yet, it’s something that the players have a high level of respect for.

“[The history] will probably be brought up, it normally is,” Searl told The Inner Sanctum.

“It’s a new group this year compared to last year, it’s a new group compared to each of the other years as well. We’re this group, and we’ve got the opportunity to change that.

“It’ll be brought up, but we’re just going to try and do what we’ve been doing all year. Try and keep it pretty simple.”

Morningside celebrate 2020’s QAFL Premiership. (Photo: AFL Queensland)

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Searl speaks with a steely determination, even on his lunch break at his 9-to-5 engineering job. It’s the life of a semi-professional footballer; trade by day, train by night.

It’s that regular routine that helps the Cats veteran stay focused and composed in the face of surmounting pressure.

Athletes seem to hold this notion of keeping business as usual as much as possible in grand final week. Whether it be superstition, or just keeping the lid on, the psychology of it all seems to help keep Searl’s mind at ease.

Looking at what he’s been through with the club, it’s easy to understand why. He put everything he had into the 2020 loss, named best afield for the Cats.

Speaking post-game to AFL Queensland reporters, the passion was clear to see. Searl didn’t name names, but he bemoaned the “guys who didn’t want to put their heads over the ball.”

He’s doing everything he can this year to make sure every player knows what’s expected of them.

“We’re going through a typical week… everyone comes to Saturday feeling the same,” Searl said.

“We’re not going to shy away from the fact that it is a huge week for us, we’ll address that and make sure everyone’s aware of that fact. Training wise and actual preparation for the game will be what we’ve been doing all year.

“We’ve had a pretty good few last few weeks, as much as we haven’t had many games, we’ve just been trying to do what we can. I’m sure the boys will be fine.”

Respecting the opposition

Opponent Maroochydore has made its run to the QAFL Grand Final the hard way.

While the Cats finished in second having to win just one match (which they did accordingly), the Roos had to make a miracle run through all of Redland-Victoria Point, reigning premiers Morningside, and Labrador, all away from home.

The QAFL home and away season didn’t play out fully, with the last four rounds of the year completely cancelled due to COVID complications.

An extended rest seems to have benefitted the Roos accordingly.

“It’s a massive effort from them to not play for five or six weeks and then come out three in a row,” Searl said.

“We have to have massive respect for what they’ve done. The effort that they’ve put in over the last few weeks has been massive, so we’ll make sure that we work through them.

“You can see from the game on the weekend that they can score very quickly, so we have to be switched on the whole time and pay them the utmost respect, but also focus on what we want to do. If we do what we can do properly, we can beat anyone.”

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The Cats celebrate their preliminary final win. (Photo: Broadbeach Cats Australian Football Club/Brooke Sleep Photography)

In a weird quirk of fixturing due to the COVID game cancellations, Broadbeach and Maroochydore haven’t played against each other once in 2021.

The last time the two teams met in a match for premiership points was over a year ago now, in August 2020. It was a Cats demolition, taking down the Roos by 94 points.

“They’re in the same situation,” Searl laughed.

“If we played them once, it might be nice, but we’ve been able to watch them a couple of times over the last few weeks. Up at Redlands and then a few of us went and watched Labrador.

“It’s a weird situation… I imagine it never would have happened where two grand final teams haven’t played each other throughout the year, it’s pretty weird.

“They’re in the same situation so it’s no disadvantage or advantage.”

Broadbeach and Maroochydore will face off in the QAFL Grand Final from 2:30pm on Saturday, September 18. You can watch the match live on the AFL Queensland website.

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