In a replay of a major upset three weekends ago, the St Marys Saints will be out to spoil Mounties’ party in the 2016 Ron Massey Cup decider.
Mounties, who have enjoyed a well-publicised run of club success to get teams into all three Grand Finals, have arguably appeared the most vulnerable in this competition; they were the only team to play in Week 2 of the finals after being defeated by the Saints in Week 1. They responded with a 48-0 thrashing of the Hills District Bulls, however, and followed it up with a smaller victory over the Wentworthville Magpies last week.
The Minor Premiers’ run of seven wins from their last eight starts is nothing to be sneezed at – but with the Saints winning their past nine matches, coach Brad Drew knows they will be a real chance come Sunday.
“We’ve got a bit of momentum, we’ve won nine in a row so we’ve got a bit of confidence going into the game,” Drew told NSWRL.com.au. “We know what wins, what works for us and what doesn’t so we’ll just try and focus on that.
“We won’t change anything, it’s just another game for us and that’s how we’ll be approaching it.”
Even making the Grand Final is a significant achievement for St Marys, as 2016 saw them compete in the competition for the first time as a solo entity. Having defeated all three sides above them in their last five games – including second-placed Western Suburbs on two occasions – the Saints have truly earned their place in their maiden season.
The history couldn’t be more different for their Sunday opposition, however, became the first Mounties side to win a senior competition with their Ron Massey victory last year. Coach Mark Speechley knows the hunger is there to go back-to-back and will rely on his players’ recent experience to get the job done.
“I’ve got probably six or seven in there that were here last year and a few have played other Grand Finals as well,” Speechley explained. “We’re well balanced and we’ve got a couple of good leaders in (captain) John Kennedy and ‘Walshy’ (halfback Jake Walsh), so they’ll do their job.
“It’ll be a real real tough encounter – they’ve got some real quality players in there.”
Where it will be won:
The vast contrast in big-game experience – at least as a single playing group – means each coach will have a slightly different focus throughout their preparation. Mounties will have the 2015 victory fresh in their memories and they will know what worked in that instance, so Speechley explains they will do little more than practicing the basics in the lead-up to the big game.
“In finals footy it’s about completing your sets – getting to your kick and going from there. It’s really really simple footy in finals,” Speechley said. “A good kicking game, good kick-chase and then work off the back of that. Just completing your sets.”
Mounties, the best defenders in the competition, have conceded 96 fewer points than the Saints this year and Speechley also identified this as key to taking out the title.
“I think our defence really, that’s the big thing,” Speechley added. “We’re really getting in there and having a dig.”
In St Marys’ position, the key battle will be a mental one. The Grand Final preparation will be foreign to several players, but they will also take confidence from their last outing against Mounties. Having come back from an 18-6 half-time deficit, Drew says there are valuable lessons to be learned from that game.
“By just hanging in there long enough and giving yourself a chance, you can win the game,” Drew said. “The game got away on us early, we regrouped, just scored on half-time, found a bit of momentum going into the second half and hit the lead.
“You’ve just got to give yourself a bit of a chance to win… play the footy we want to play and don’t be intimidated.”
An intriguing battle will take place between the two halfbacks: Mounties’ Jake Walsh and St Marys’ Adrian Davis. Both playmakers have had solid seasons in 2016 and both are experienced heads in their respective sides; Walsh was a key part of Mounties’ 30-14 Grand Final win over Asquith in 2015, while Davis has played sufficient Intrust Super Premiership NSW and Intrust Super Cup since graduating from the Holden Cup in 2010.
Davis, who has amassed 142 points this year to sit second on the point scorers list, is an astute goal kicker – and proved the difference in this regard the last time they met, kicking three conversions to Walsh’s one as the Saints won 26-22.
- Mounties: (none)
- St Marys: Henry Seumanu, Lakehm Aiono, Mose Feilo, Jamie Hill
- Mounties: (none)
- St Marys: Veta Lilomaiava
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.