NRL grand final day will be a special one for Cole Geyer for a number of reasons.
The Melbourne Storm young gun will vie for history on Sunday, as part of the Brisbane Tigers outfit set to take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL State Championship.
After winning this year’s Hostplus Cup grand final, to play on this stage ahead of the NRLW and NRL premiership deciders is a big moment for Cole.
On top of this, it will also be the first time the bench hooker starts for the Tigers, in what is his debut year of Cup.
And, finally, in a nice moment for the Geyer family, his father – former Melbourne Storm winger Matt Geyer – will be chasing his own glory in the NRLW grand final, as the assistant coach of the Gold Coast Titans.
It has been a huge season for Cole - and it's one that will end with a memorable day.
COLE’S DEBUT CUP SEASON
A Currumbin Eagles junior, Cole came through the Queensland Rugby League’s statewide pathways with Tweed Seagulls and Burleigh Bears, playing both Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and Hastings Deering Colts with Burleigh.
He signed with the Storm last year, playing the 2022 season with the Victoria Thunderbolts in the NSW Jersey Flegg competition, picking up the team’s player of the year award for his efforts.
Cole’s promotion to Cup this season was the obvious next step in his development.
With Tristan Hope – the Tigers’ best and fairest and players’ player for 2023 - starting in the No.9 jersey week in, week out, Cole became the club’s impact player from the bench.
He said he felt he struggled at the start, but as the team started to click more midway through the season, he found his own feet and excelled as a result, even picking up Hastings Deering player of the match accolades in Round 19 and earning a call up as 18th man for the Storm in Round 27.
“It was my first year of Cup, it was something new for me and new challenges,” Cole said of his season.
“I didn’t start the year the way that I wanted. I was a little bit hesitant just for the fact it was something new.
“It’s always a bit daunting but as the year went on, I didn’t change much but I grew in confidence and the players around me believed in me and trusted in me. That’s when I started to play my best footy.
“I just started enjoying my footy a lot again and that’s why I was happy with how I ended the season, because of that.”
Tigers forward Tom Rafter also felt that moment when the playing group “clicked” midway through the season, with both players identifying July as the month when everything came together for Brisbane.
Cole said one thing he noticed about the group at the Tigers was how welcoming they were of himself and his fellow Melbourne affiliates – they felt as if they slotted right in despite not being able to train with the group regularly.
Those bonds continued to grow and then the Tigers didn’t drop a game after Activate! Queensland Country Week in Round 18.
Cole said this is when they knew within themselves that they were true premiership contenders – even if that wasn’t obvious to many outside their four walls yet.
“I felt like from the start we always knew we had the team to do it but we were such a new squad, we needed it to click,” Cole said.
“After Country Round we didn’t lose a game and that’s when we started to build a lot of confidence and knew in every game we played, we should win and if we didn’t it would be because of our mistakes.
“It was around that July mark where we knew we could do this but just didn’t know how we were going to do it.”
THE DROUGHT-BREAKING PREMIERSHIP AND AN ELUSIVE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
When the Tigers claimed this year’s Hostplus Cup trophy, it was their first title in 32 years and their first premiership in the Cup era.
“To win a Cup grand final is hard,” Cole said.
“The boys have been training for 11 months. It’s gruelling. To hold the trophy up for a club that hasn’t done it for 32 years was really special.
“Being part of that history still hasn’t hit me… it probably will in a few years. Probably not until I can go back and watch the next generation, that will be when it really sinks in.
“Nothing will compare to this one at this stage. I’ll hold onto this for the rest of my life.”
But, as special as that premiership was for Cole, his Tigers teammates, the coaching staff and beyond, they’re not satisfied yet.
There’s still one more game to go with this Sunday’s NRL State Championship showdown against South Sydney.
It has been seven years since a Hostplus Cup side last won the annual meeting and coach Matt Church said he wants to be known as the best team in the nation at this level.
And for Cole – a self-proclaimed proud Queenslander - the job is certainly not done yet.
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“This is a bonus, a reward for winning,” he said of the match.
“For us, the job’s definitely not done. We have one more game and I am looking forward to it. I’ll treat it like an Origin – Queensland versus New South Wales.
“To win, it would show everyone that we should have been respected from the start. A lot of people thought we probably weren’t going to win (Cup) this year.
“We were always under the radar and people thought other teams were better than us. I think it was because there were those games where we were good in doses but not so good in other doses.
“But also probably because we haven’t won a grand final in 32 years. It was nine straight grand final losses for us.
“All the odds were stacked against us but we thrived off that and that’s why it was so satisfying getting that win.
“NSW in the State Championship may feel the same as no Queensland team has won it since 2015. But on our day, we can beat any side.
“I feel like we are the best team and hopefully we can show that on Sunday.”
There will also be a strong Queensland theme on grand final day, with the Gold Coast Titans in the NRLW grand final and Brisbane Broncos playing for the NRL premiership.
This is something the Tigers hope will play to their benefit as they call for fans to come early for their 12.20pm AEST kick off time.
And for Cole, the NRLW grand final in particular holds some special interest.
“It’s the Titans’ first ever grand final in boys or girls,” Cole said.
“The Broncos haven’t won in a long time either (in the NRL).
“It has been dominated by Sydney for the last few years so to see the Queensland teams are right there this year, hopefully we can get a few wins.”
TITANS OF THE NRLW
While Cole is firmly focused on the task ahead for the Tigers, his father Matt is also looking to make history come Sunday.
Coming up against the Newcastle Knights, the Titans’ NRLW side is the first Gold Coast team to make the major grand final in any sporting code and are chasing their club’s first premiership.
Matt has been assistant coach under Karyn Murphy for the past two seasons, with the coaching staff guiding the team from wooden spoon to a grand final berth.
He said it was now a “thrill” to be on the cusp of history.
“It’s been really good,” Matt said of the build up to this week’s grand final.
“The girls have seemed to have really been thrilled by it but taken it in their stride as well. That’s a good sign. They’re enjoying the Coast getting behind them.
“Last year we learnt so much about ourselves and how we might do things better and I’m very grateful for the club to give me another shot at it. It’s not always guaranteed.
“There’s been much more time to prepare and that’s shown in getting the little things right this year. There’s a calmness.
“It’s no hidden fact that no professional Gold Coast organisation has made a grand final, so we’ve ticked that box. Then obviously none have it won.
“It will be a landmark if we manage to get it. The girls getting the victory in a national comp would really pave the way for the future.
“We have so many young female rugby league players in the nursery here so it would go a long way in showing those girls the future.”
For Matt, he is always extremely committed to his job, to Murphy and to the playing group.
But they all know he will also be thinking of his son come Sunday.
When Cole played in the Hostplus Cup grand final, Matt could not be at the game as the Titans were fighting for their place in this year’s NRLW finals series in Canberra.
However, after a few celebratory drinks following the win over the Raiders, Matt was able to at least watch his son win his first major premiership via television.
“I’m a thousand per cent committed to the girls and their cause,” Matt said.
“I knew six or seven weeks out I was on a collision course but I kept it quiet because I had a job to do. But I am one of those dads who follows their kids around everywhere.
“That’s why I had kids, because I wanted to be in their life and they probably get embarrassed at times but I’m unapologetic about that.
“To miss his grand final was really tough but I had a compromise in that we celebrated with the girls and then I caught an Uber back to the hotel and got back just as they were singing the national anthem.
“I got to see every minute of the game.”
THE GEYER PRIDE
This Sunday will be similar for Matt.
While Murphy has given him full permission to take as much time as he needs for Cole and the Tigers, Matt said he will still work around the Titans’ schedule and watch as much of his son’s game as he can.
He is unsure how much he will actually get to take in. Both Geyer men are unsure whether results will fall their way on the day. But the one thing they do know for sure is how proud they are of each other.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” Matt said of Cole.
“He’s been down in Melbourne for two years... Where else would you rather he be? It’s a club renowned for bringing young players through.
“I talk to people at the club and I know his achievements on the football field are magnificent. I love that he’s playing Cup and won a grand final and is now in the State Championship.
“But people at the club have gone to lengths to tell me how great a kid he is and what he adds to the club and playing group. When you send your kids out of home, that’s what you want to hear, that they’re contributing.
“I have two boys and a daughter as well and Cole was always a real footy head as a kid. He didn’t like reading at school but to get him started there, he would read Big League and Rugby League Week.
“He got upset when he couldn’t come to training. The other two are loyal supporters of their dad but Cole was that next level. He loves footy.
“It would be really cool if we could both get the win. For Cole to get the win, it’s like any father, I want my kid to do well in their field. I’d be really happy that he’s happy. I know how hard rugby league players work.
“I’m not that reflective about the girls winning yet. I’m really thinking about them. Any of the successes they have, I want them to have it. I want them to win for them.”
And for Cole, that pride and respect is easily returned.
He knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without his family’s support and is hopeful there are two happy Geyers come Sunday.
“It’s pretty cool. I’m really proud of dad,” Cole said.
“He took time off his usual job of teaching to take on this opportunity. The type of person dad is, he’s probably played it off and says it’s all about the girls. He won’t take any credit.
“But as a family we’re really proud of him. He’s been coaching a long time and it shows how good of a coach he is.
“He coached me for a long time at club and school. It was always after every game I would go talk to him and see how I went. He would always tell me that he’s just proud of me.
“He’d give me a few tips but he’s always wanted me to do what I love. We’ve always had that connection. Whenever I really need the feedback, he’ll give me a bit of a spray.
“But he’s just proud of what I’m doing and happy to see me being happy and I’m happiest when I’m playing footy.
“It would mean the world to win on Sunday.
“To get this win would mean a lot for myself, Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Tigers. It is the best of the best fighting it out and we’ll all be proud of ourselves if Brissie is the best in all of Australia.
“Hopefully we can get that win for all the people, all the Easts juniors who want to be a Cup player one day. Hopefully I can be a small part of why they want to be a Tigers Cup player one day.”