They’ve been the team to beat all season and deservedly enter the finals as red-hot favourites – but what makes Mounties tick?
NSWRL.com.au spoke to a number of Intrust Super Premiership NSW coaches and commentators to gauge their thoughts about the Minor Premiers. The responses were varied, but followed some common themes in summing up the secret behind Mounties’ success.
There is no doubt that the partnership with the Canberra Raiders is now a successful one, as is the entire system at Mounties; since the partnership commenced in 2012, they have gradually climbed the ladder with ninth, 10th, fifth and fourth-place finishes. That progression reached its peak with a well-deserved Minor Premiership this season – a feat they replicated in the Ron Massey Cup, Sydney Shield and Sydney Metropolitan Women’s Rugby League to own a unique piece of history. When combined with a top three finish for the Raiders in the NRL, coaches believe the system is a well-oiled machine in 2016.
“I think the key to their success is the partnership with Canberra,” Steele Sports commentator Alby Talarico told NSWRL.com.au. “It’s taken a couple of years to come to fruition, but they’ve built every single year.”
“They’ve got their mix right as a Mounties club as well,” Knights coach Matt Lantry added. “Those part-time boys that aren’t in the full-time group at Canberra are actually at an Intrust Super Premiership level.”
There’s no doubt that coaches are envious of Mounties’ structured system, but equally influential has been their good run with injuries. The men from Mount Pritchard have enjoyed some luck in this regard, but most importantly have made the most of it.
“Having a strong first grade side and not having many injuries,” Wests Tigers coach Paul Stringer put simply – a sentiment echoed by Ben Gardiner: “they’ve been able to keep a lot of their players on the paddock throughout the year,” the Bears mentor said.
“As a general rule, most of their team has stayed the same.”
Mounties have taken a number of close victories from their 22 games to date and their ability to close out games can be put down to their most experienced leaders.
“They know how to win – they’ve won plenty of close ones,” Jets coach Greg Matterson said.
“Sam Williams – he’s been outstanding,” added Bulldogs coach Patmore. “Twice he’s beaten us with his kicking game and control of the football.
“When you’ve got a class player like that on the back of a really good pack and some good finishers… they’re a quality team.”
The whole competition has been talking about Mounties this year, which coach Steve Antonelli knows all too well. Being the ladder leaders brings added pressure and Antonelli has witnessed every other team play their best football against his side, but it all means little come finals time.
“When you’re running first, teams always lift against you – it’ll be no different this week and moving into the semis,” Antonelli said. “But it’s a whole new ball game. If we play our best footy we give ourselves a good chance.”
Scarily, Antonelli knows that there is room for improvement and maintains that he is yet to see an 80-minute performance from his side this year. Fox Sports commentator Jimmy Smith, however, warns that they must overcome their demons from last year if they are to take the title in 2016.
“The thing about that dominance of Mounties is that it doesn’t translate automatically into success,” Smith explained. “Last year in the Preliminary Final at Leichhardt Oval, I thought they dominated the Newcastle Knights for major parts of that game – but they lost it.
“Steve Antonelli and the rest of the Mounties squad know exactly about that. That’s at the forefront of their mind and they’ll be hoping it doesn’t happen in 2016.”
Time will tell whether Mounties can meet the expectations many have set and it all starts with a Qualifying Final against Newtown on Saturday afternoon. Regardless of the outcome, it has been an enjoyable ride so far.
Witness history this September at the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day. On Sunday, 25 September the Intrust Super Premiership NSW decider, along with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Grand Finals, take place at Pirtek Stadium, with tickets just $10 for adults and kids under 12 free. Click here to secure your seat.