Recent history suggests that teams which compete in the NAB Cup final will also compete in the regular season finals. One needs to look back to the 2007 season to find a team that competed in the NAB Cup final but not the actual finals series, with both finalists that year missing out on the top eight.
All of this bodes well for this season’s NAB Cup finalists, except when you consider that the two finalists in the 2007 NAB Cup were Carlton and Brisbane.
Coming off the back of a poor 2006 season for both the Blues and the Lions where both sides finished in the bottom four of the ladder, the 2007 NAB Cup Grand Final was seen as a glimmer of hope. Carlton emerged victorious, defeating Brisbane by 25 points and inspiring Michael Tuck Medallist Nick Stevens to proclaim that “To all the Carlton supporters out there, get with us and get on board, because this is going to be a great year.”
After a disappointing previous year when Carlton won the wooden spoon, this victory was supposed to be a sign of things to come. Unfortunately for Carlton, the season went downhill quickly and the Blues narrowly avoided their third consecutive wooden spoon.
Brisbane’s good run in the 2007 NAB Cup appeared to carry into the regular season as the Lions claimed a couple of convincing early wins to be top of the ladder in Round 2. However, their season soon took a wrong turn and Brisbane spent the majority of 2007 on the fringes of the top eight before finishing the season in 10th position.
2007 seems like an eternity ago in the footballing world, especially for these two sides. Leigh Matthews has been replaced as coach of Brisbane by club icon Michael Voss and the replacement for 2007 Carlton coach Dennis Pagan has been replaced. Players have come and gone and only 14 players that competed in the 2007 NAB Cup Grand Final remain for both sides.
Carlton is no longer the pushover it was in 2007 and despite finishing no higher than 13th in the last three seasons, Brisbane has plenty to be optimistic about for the coming season. However, before either team can look at the season ahead, the matter of the NAB Cup is still to be settled.
Whilst many continue to argue the validity of the NAB Cup, what cannot be understated is the morale boost it gives to players. Victory in any competition cannot be undervalued and winning the NAB Cup is often a springboard to bigger and better things. While every finalist since 2008 has made it into the top eight, every NAB Cup champion has made the top four.
Most recently, it was Adelaide, a club that finished in 14th position on the ladder in 2011, which utilised its NAB Cup success to springboard itself into second position in 2012. The Blues, who finished in 10th position in 2012, and the Lions, finishing in 13th, should draw inspiration from Adelaide and endeavour to claim the NAB Cup trophy before attempting to replicate their success in the season proper.
Whatever happens during the 2013 NAB Cup Grand Final, both Brisbane and Carlton will be optimistic that their success in this competition will continue into the home and away season. Recent history suggests that it should, but the ghosts of 2007 may come back to haunt these two sides and hold them back from the finals berth they both aspire for.