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PREVIEW | Ron Massey Cup Grand Final

Ryan Selvage (Twitter: @Ryan Selvage)

Yet to win a Ron Massey Cup title in the club’s history, the Auburn Warriors go in search of a maiden premiership when they take on the Wentworthville Magpies in the competition decider at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.  

Though playing without fear, the Warriors will fancy their chances of upsetting the favoured Magpies outfit, having shown no signs of stage fright in dismantling the 2017 minor premiers St Marys en route to a grand final berth.

Finishing the regular season with nine wins, and nine losses to their name, Auburn’s mid-season rise from 10th to finish Round 25 in sixth caught all by surprise – except the Warriors themselves.

“In July we were coming last, a credit to the boys and the coach, our self-belief was unbelievable. We stuck at it and things turned around,” Warriors captain Jamie Clark tells NSWRL.com.au

Their title hopes bolstered by the red-hot form of ex-NRL players Matt Utai and Omar Slaimankhel inspiring their side from the back, Clark says there’s no reason why he and the Warriors can’t make history this weekend.

“He’s slick, Omar. What he’s brought to the team, he’s a big key for us at the weekend.”

The Magpies though also hold handy ex-NRL talent, not least in the form of their hard-hitting captain, Taniela Lasalo.

Playing 40 NRL games with the Parramatta Eels in 2009 to 2014, Lasalo is aware of his side’s need to find yet another gear, despite heading into the grand final on the back of two commanding finals wins.

“Our defence has been solid the last few weeks, we can score points, but it’s our defence that wins us games,” Lasalo said.

“When we played (the Warriors) at (Ringrose Park) a few weeks ago, we won on the buzzer. I told the boys, I hope we don’t play those guys again.

“It’s going to be physical, but it’ll be enjoyable as well.”

Wentworthville have featured in six Ron Massey Cup Grand Finals dating back to their first appearance in a decider in 2003, having won four titles.

In a daunting omen for the Warriors heading into the decider, Auburn has not defeated Wentworthville since 2014 – falling twice to the Magpies in their two clashes this season also.

Key Match-Up: Josh Minhinnick (Wentworthville) v Addison Demetriou (Auburn)

A head-to-head battle featuring an abundance of size and speed will be on show when Josh Minhinnick and Addison Demetriou clash at Leichhardt on Sunday.

Crossing for a hat-trick in his side’s Finals Week 1 win over Guildford, Minhinnick looked a threat at every opportunity against the Owls, and again is set to be a handful for his opposite number in the grand final.

Demetriou meanwhile tops the try-scorers list (15) for the Warriors this season, five clear of the next best in Manaia Rudolph, who has 10 to his name.

 

Where It Will Be Won

Expect both coaches to be stressing the importance of their sides defence at the weekend, such was the sentiments echoed from their respective benches in Week Three of the Ron Massey Cup finals.

Both Wentworthville and Auburn boast a big, strong and fast ‘back five’, who so often get their team’s sets off to a rolling start.

The work of the middle forwards in limiting the metres earned by the opposition backs will go a long way in swaying the result come full-time.

 

Road to the Grand Final

Wentworthville Magpies:

Finals Week 1: Qualifying Final

Wentworthville Magpies 46 (J Minhinnick 3, J Gammidge 2, D Barakat 2, J Walsh, A Gafa tries; J Rafferty-Butfield 5 goals) def. Hills District Bulls 12 (J Flavell, S Bristow tries; C O’Donnell 2 goals) 

Finals Week 3: Preliminary Final

Wentworthville Magpies 38 (J Martin 2, J Tangitau, J Rafferty-Butfield, J Morris, D Barakat, T Lasalo, R Armstrong tries; J Walsh 2, J Rafferty-Butfield goals) def Guildford Owls 8 (L Brown try; J Camroux 2 goals

 

Auburn Warriors:

Finals Week 1: Qualifying Final

Auburn Warriors 29 (V Setefano, M Rudolph, D Minute, A Demetriou, O Slaimankhel tries; M Rudolph 4 goals; J Clark field goal) def Concord-Burwood-Glebe Wolves 20 (H O'Toole 2, S Williams, J Safi tries; K Aldridge 2 goals)

Finals Week 2: Semi Final

Auburn Warriors 24 (R El-Zbaidieh 2, M Utai, D Miller, E Sukkar tries; M Rudolph 2 goals) def Hills District Bulls 22 (J Horo 2, T Robinson, C O'Donnell tries; C O'Donnell 3 goals)

Finals Week 3: Preliminary Final

Auburn Warriors 31 (M Rudolph 2, A Demetriou, R El-Zbadieh, D Minute tries; M Rudolph 5 goals; M Rudolph field goal) def St Marys 12 (V Lilomaiava 2 tries; M Place 2 goals)