Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Harold Matthews Coach Adam McEwan is ensuring there is a fine balance of enjoyment and focus ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final against the Parramatta Eels.
The Sea Eagles go into the U17s season decider at Leichhardt Oval on May 1 as undefeated minor premiers on the back of a 32-12 semi-final win over the Western Suburbs Magpies at the same venue last Saturday. The Grand Final kicks-off at 1pm.
The Eels, who finished the regular season in second place, recorded a 14-6 win over the Penrith Panthers at Blacktown in their semi-final.
The Sea Eagles have played in two Harold Matthews Grand Finals. Manly lost 26-20 to Newcastle Knights in extra-time in 2017 before beating Parramatta 26-18 in 2018 to claim the club's first Harold Matthews trophy when it was an U16s competition.
The NSWRL put the Junior Representative age groups up a year for 2021 after the 2020 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saturday’s grand final will be the second time the two teams have met after Manly recorded a hard fought 22-14 win in wet conditions at Cabramatta in February.
On that day, the Sea Eagles scored three tries in the final 10 minutes after trailing Parramatta 14-6 to snatch victory in an opening round match that was marred by errors.
Since then, the Sea Eagles have taken all before them to win eight consecutive games including some very big wins against Newcastle (40-0), Balmain (48-6) and Penrith (44-16).
Under McEwan, the Sea Eagles play a brilliant style of attacking rugby league and finished the regular season with the best for and against record.
Headed by big props Samuela Fainu and Raymond Lole, the Manly forwards are an aggressive and hardworking pack with hooker Ollie Cummins a tireless and skillful player.
As for the backline, this team can seriously pile on the points, and quickly, too. There is plenty of strike power and creativity headed by five-eighth Latu Fainu and captain and centre Josh Feledy, who has scored 19 tries in nine games.
McEwan said he wanted his players to enjoy the hype and extra attention around the Grand Final in between remaining focused on the task at hand.
“Everyone should be excited for moments like this. Grand Final week is about embracing the opportunity and enjoying it, and then being able to switch on when it is time to work,’’ he added.
“We will have a bit of fun and we will enjoy each other’s company and be proud of ourselves because it is an achievement, but the job’s not done.
“I think it is great that we are playing our old rivals Parramatta again…the two best teams of the competition playing each other.
“Anything worthwhile doesn’t get given to you, you have to earn it. And that’s what we will do this week.
“We will work hard and then get out there and put our best foot forward.”
McEwan has made a big impact in such a short time with the Sea Eagles. He joined Manly this season after being Head Coach of the Central Coast Roosters SG Ball Cup team from 2018-20.
He was also the Assistant Coach of the Sydney Roosters’ National Rugby League Women’s team in 2019 and the Warriors women’s team in 2020.
A former first grade second-rower, McEwan played 28 games for the South Sydney Rabbitohs from 1995-97.
The Grand Final will be live streamed on the NSWRL FaceBook page
Entry to Leichhardt Oval is $5 adults with children 12 and under free.
1 Lehi Hopoate, 2 Calvin Levy, 3 Eli Sagala, 4 Josh Feledy (c), 5 Revelation Sio, 6 Latu Fainu, 7 Rory Morgan, 8 Samuela Fainu, 9 Ollie Cummins, 10 Raymond Lole, 11 Dylan Coutts, 12 Roy Quiroz-Mapusua, 13 Noa Faatui; interchange: 14 Mitchell Taotua, 15 Rene Bagon, 16 Drew Williams, 17 TJ Herring; reserves: 18 Zedrick Tupulua, 22 Jake Smith, 24 Max Taotua
Manly's Road to the Grand Final
Rd 1 d Parramatta Eels 22-14, Cabramatta Sports Ground
Rd 2 d South Sydney 30-12, Redfern Oval
Rd 3 bye
Rd 4 d Western Suburbs Magpies 20-14, Lottoland
Rd 5 d Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14-10, Lottoland
Rd 6 d Newcastle Knights 40-0, Cessnock Sports Ground
Rd 7 d Balmain Tigers 48-6.
Rd 8 d Penrith 44-16, Lottoland
Rd 9 d St George-Illawarra 32-16, Mascot Oval.
Elimination Final - week off
Grand Final Qualifier: d Wests 32-12, Leichhardt Oval