The Belrose Eagles may be without captain Jamie Buhrer for this weekend's blockbuster Grand Final qualifier against Cronulla Caringbah Sharks but coach John Ahkam Jr is confident the True Blue's profound impact on the playing group will leave a lasting impression when they take the field on Saturday.
The Eagles finished the regular season in third place on the competition ladder but will be out to avenge their 26-6 loss to Helensburgh Tigers in Round 9. They will do battle with a potent Sharks' outfit who are coming off a thumping 48-8 victory over Wentworthville last weekend, and are spearheaded by ex-Bulldogs star Michael Lichaa.
While Ahkam Jr was bitterly disappointed with his side's poor defensive resolve in the second-half of last week's contest, he is quietly confident the Eagles can bounce back to form thanks to the resilience instilled by Buhrer throughout the season.
"It's hard to take any positives away from that game because defence is our bread and butter"," Ahkam Jr told NSWRL.com.au.
HIGHLIGHTS | Presidents Cup Rd 9
"We are missing some high-calibre players but that's no excuse. We have 17 players who are talented and looking to bring plenty of energy this weekend.
"Jamie (Buhrer) has brought a lot to the team with his experience and his leadership has rubbed off on the players this season and that will be no different on Saturday.
"The playing group feed off each other and we're going into this game to walk away with a win."
The Eagles have built a strong defensive unit this season with the second-best defence in the competition, although face arguably their biggest test against a formidable Sharks' outfit.
The Sharks will be without prolific try-scorer Tom Carr who scored four tries in their emphatic Round 9 win, although can take confidence from having dynamic halves Kamren Cryer and Bailey Hayward steering the ship.
Minor Premiers Ryde Eastwood Hawks will be looking to reach their second consecutive Sydney Shield Grand Final when they host Helensburgh Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
The Hawks finished the regular season with seven wins and one loss, and will be filing rejuvenated after enjoying the bye in Round 9. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be brimming with confidence after they recorded back-to-back wins to finish their campaign and are also coming off a resounding 26-6 victory over fellow title contender, Belrose Eagles.
Helensburgh are one of just four teams to surpass 200 points scored for the season, however, have the fourth-worst defensive record in the competition with an average of 24 points conceded per game.
The Hawks will boast plenty go big-game experience with a host of their 2019 premiership-winners playing on Saturday, including five-eighth Adam Rizk, who claimed Man of the Match honours in last year's Grand Final.
He will join the likes captain Langi Suli-Ruka, Angelo Panambalana, Mitchell Gray, Angus McElroy, Tyler Seymour, Bradley Cousins, and Callum Ellis as players who were part of their triumphant squad last season.