SEASON PREVIEW: Mounties
That is how close Mounties came to a premiership last season, going down 21-20 in a thriller against Illawarra.
The easy answer teams give leading up to the season after going down in a Grand Final is that they have forgotten about the loss, but there is an extra dimension of truth of that for Mounties, as they have plenty of fresh faces within their squad.
Still, with a relatively new squad, Mounties will be one of the teams to beat in season 2017.
“We’ve been good, we’ve got a new group again so we’re finding out feet slowly,” Mounties coach Steve Antonelli tells NSWRL.com.au.
“It won’t be a slow start, but it will take time to gel as a team, which is normal when you have a new lot of blokes in your team.”
“I don’t have to manage them too much when you’ve got blokes like Isaac John and Yileen Gordon who’ve got plenty of NRL experience so they take charge and run the ship.
“I’m in Canberra Monday to Thursday, so I get back to Sydney on Thursday night for Mounties Friday night; I rely on those blokes early in the week to really set the standards, which they have been, they’ve been good for me.”
2016 IN 16 WORDS OR LESS
So close yet so far. Fell one point short in the Grand Final.
THEIR BIG FIVE
Captaining the side is Glen Buttriss who is an experienced campaigner with a wealth of NRL experience
Isaac John is a cunning and creative half who will take control of the game, and is another player with NRL experience.
Sam Duggan is a familiar face at Mounties; a utility who Antonelli describes as incredibly reliable.
Yet another experienced NRL player, Yileen Gordon, will line up for Mounties this year after a stint at Wentworthville last season.
Magnus Stromquist returns to the Intrust Super Premiership NSW after a stint in Intrust Super Cup; the former Wyong Roo is a workhorse with a large skill-set.
Steve Antonelli has been the best coach over the past two seasons in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, taking Mounties to the Preliminary Final in 2015 and the Grand Final last year.
Perhaps 2017 is the year for Antonelli to capture the much-deserved premiership, but Mounties is not his only focus this year.
He is heavily involved in the Canberra Raiders, and actually lives down there for most of his working week while juggling Mounties duties back in Sydney.
“Personally I think I’ve got the best job in the world,” Antonelli says.
“Family-wise it’s hard sometimes because my family is still in Sydney, so I live with Dean Pay, the NRL assistant; I live with his family.
“I’m lucky to have him down there as a mate, and same with Ricky [Stuart], it helps.
“Mounties-wise it works well, whatever we’re doing down there I bring back to the Mounties, so professional-wise we are right up there, which is what you need to be if you want to be top of this competition.”
Mounties have signed well for season 2017, securing the likes of young-gun Reubenn Rennie from the bulldogs and Magnus Stromquist from the Intrust Super Cup. They have, however, lost Sam Williams, who was the Intrust Super Premiership NSW player of the year in 2016.
Mounties are a genuine premiership chance, and a competition heavyweight. They should certainly make the top four, and can certainly go one better than they did in 2016.