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Mounties take on Illawarra in the opening week of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series. Image: Kevin Manning.

After going within one point of the title in 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW, it was a case of ‘so close, yet so far’ once again for Mounties this season. Last year’s decider was always going to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who remained, but after threatening to finish in the top four all season, a first-week finals exit will be just as disappointing.

Mounties, who have been a consistent force since their inception in 2012, are still chasing their first title after a fifth-place finish pitted them against Illawarra – the team which got the better of them in last year’s decider – in the first elimination final. A Jai Field masterstroke in the final two minutes of play broke the hearts of Steve Antonelli’s men, finishing what looked to be another promising season.

Their Highlight Moment

The greatest display of Mounties’ potential came in Round 20, when they convincingly put away minor premiers the Wyong Roos 51-10.

The Roos opened the scoring in that game, but it would descend into Wyong’s worst performance of the year as Mounties notched up a major upset. Scott Sorensen was Mounties’ best with a double in the nine-tries-to-two rout, while front-rower Liam Knight and lock Bill Cullen also performed strongly. It was a clear sign that Mounties could beat anyone on their day and with more performances like that, they would have finished higher at the end of the season.

Simply Their Best!

With a number of players remaining from the minor premiership-winning 2016 outfit, Mounties were not short on talent again this year. In judging their best performer, however, look no further than second-rower Sorensen.

Sorensen featured in the Team of the Week on seven occasions and ultimately the Team of the Year, a reward for his defensive workload and playmaking abilities. More than once did the 24-year-old come up with more try-assists than anyone else on the team, while he is typically solid without the ball as well. Having played three NRL games for the Sharks in 2014, the Cronulla-Caringbah junior has recently penned a deal to return to the Shire next season – at a club in which the Sorensen name is highly regarded.

Room For Improvement

Mounties actually went close to or defeated every top-four team this season; their biggest loss in this regard was by a margin of 10 points to the Warriors in Round 21, which had scores level with 10 minutes remaining. It is the games they should have won, however, which brought Mounties undone in 2017.

Of the side’s nine regular-season losses in 2017, six came against teams which would finish below them on the ladder. Add in the season-ending defeat to Illawarra and it was a year of near misses for Mounties.

How It Will Be Remembered

Once again, 2017 will be a season remembered as a near miss for Mounties; any team which can play well enough to finish fifth, but be bundled out of the finals immediately via a last-minute defeat is bound to be disappointed. Two more wins throughout the season would have earned Mounties fourth position and a guarantee of playing on after Finals Week 1, but it wasn’t to be. Regardless, the Canberra Raiders feeder showed signs that if they gave themselves the opportunity, they could have beaten the best on their day and went on a run come finals time.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.