Mounties (1st) v East Campbelltown Eagles (5th)
Pirtek Stadium, Sunday 25 September
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au, broadcast LIVE on SteeleSports.com.au, Hawkesbury 89.9 FM and Triple H 100.1 FM
In what shapes as a David-and-Goliath battle for the 2016 Sydney Shield, the first Grand Final on a big day at Pirtek Stadium will be contested by Minor Premiers Mounties and the fifth-placed East Campbelltown Eagles. This battle, perhaps more than any other to take place at Parramatta on Sunday, will come down to both sides’ mental preparation as much as anything.
Eagles coach Richard Barnes sums up the contest in just a few words: “we all know Mounties will be the raging favourites – they’ve won the last 20-something games in a row,” Barnes told NSWRL.com.au. That number is 21, to be exact, discounting a Round 23 forfeit to the Guildford Owls, and while the club from Mount Pritchard has managed the unbelievable feat of a Minor Premiership and Grand Final appearance in all three senior grades, it is the Sydney Shield side that has been the most dominant. Mounties have top try scorer Maika Sivo and top point scorer Jake Horton both in their corner, are a massive 329 points better than their opposition in attack and 194 better in defence this year.
‘Upset’ doesn’t even begin to describe the task that is ahead of East Campbelltown, but anything can happen in 80 minutes of football and Barnes has been successful in building the self-belief in his men. The Eagles have their backs against the wall and the coach believes that mentality could get them over the line on Sunday.
“They’d probably be paying a dollar five wouldn’t they?” Barnes joked. “Everyone’s been writing us off all week, so we just keep turning up for each other and proving everyone wrong.
“We absolutely believe in ourselves, I believe in the boys we’ve got and I wouldn’t swap one of them for any other player.”
On Mounties’ side, coaches Gary Burgess and Grant Mitchell have been less-than-impressed with their team’s performances throughout the finals series; they had to come back from a 30-6 deficit to defeat Belrose in Finals Week 1, before failing to score in the second half of their win over Peninsula last week. Mounties, of course, still managed to secure victory in both of those encounters, but it has made the coaches’ job easier being able to push for improvement in time for the most important game of the year.
“Actually we’ve been struggling the past couple of weeks so I think the pressure’s off us now,” Burgess said. “We’ll just take this week as just a normal game – I know it’s a Grand Final, but most of the boys are relaxed and they’re ready to go.”
Where it will be won:
With two very different paths to the decider, it makes sense that there will be two very different game plans at play on Sunday afternoon. Mounties, having been so dominant, have a well-established plan of attack that has worked all year, so don’t expect Mounties to introduce anything too new for the Grand Final. Rather, the focus for the Burgess and Mitchell will be preparing the players mentally and some basic practice to improve discipline.
“Just complete,” Burgess put simply. “It’s an old cliché, but just complete every set of six and just stay in the contest.”
For the Eagles, the challenge is entirely different; they know they must go above and beyond what they have done at any other point this year, including in their two previous losses to Mounties. Centre Ben Baker, with 28 tries in 2016, is the Eagles’ main strike weapon and with a side that can play the 80 minutes, Barnes intends to take it to the Minor Premiers.
“Our fitness is pretty good, we know they’re a big team and we’ll fight fire with fire,” Barnes said. “We’ve been preparing pretty well for the last half of the season, so we’ll give it a good shake-up on Sunday.”
As mentioned, Sivo and Baker have both been among the two best attacking weapons this season and will face off on the same side this weekend. With Sivo on the wing and Baker at centre, it is set to be an explosive individual battle that could easily determine the swing of momentum and end result.
- Mounties: Shannon Chapman, Edward Tavita, Patrick Dumont
- East Campbelltown: (none)
- Mounties: (none)
- East Campbelltown: (none)
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.