Rep footy, rain and Grand Finals
by Shane Flanagan
It has been nice this week to see the sun out and to train on a dry track and I know the local junior league will be looking forward to getting out onto the field this weekend after a few false starts and washouts.
At NRL level whilst it was a weekend off for club teams, it was something of a juggling act keeping an eye on the players we had in action so many Rep Teams playing in the various games.
Jason Bukuya played a big part in the win over PNG and I know how proud he and his family were of him not only representing his country, but having the honour of being captain.
Valentine Holmes scored a try in the Junior Kangaroos victory over the Junior Kiwis in what was a high quality match that also included our young 20s back Jamayne Issako.
Nathan Gardner and Mitch Brown both played for NSW Residents in a narrow loss to QLD, Ricky Leutele represented Somoa in their win over Tonga, which brought him up against his close friends Sosaia Feki and Pat Politoni, and Jack Bird got what will be the first of many Rep jumpers playing for Country against City Captain Wade Graham and his front row mate Andrew Fifita.
Last but not least Luke Lewis represented Australia in the loss to the Kiwis. Showing his versatility Lewy thought he’d scored a try out on the wing, playing the position where he started his career, only for the video ref to call it back for a forward pass.
I was a proud coach watching all our boys represent over the weekend, especially those who wore their countries colour’s and even happier when all but Feki came back to us injury free. Hopefully Feki will return bigger and better than ever within the next month after he recovers from a knee injury.
As for us and the Warriors on Saturday, with the Kiwi national team having success over Australia on Sunday I hope they celebrated long and hard and forgot that they have a game against the Sharks this weekend.
The Warriors always present with that huge physical presence and we’re expecting just that on Saturday. They have plenty of weapons and we are going to need to be on our game to control them.
In saying all that however we won’t be waiting to see what Warrior team gets off the bus, we need to play our game and to take it to them from the very start. The return of Andrew Fifita gives us plenty of confidence, with his size, mobility and experience just what we need against the big Warrior forwards.
Equally important for us from a club standpoint this weekend will be the appearance of our Junior Rep Teams in the Grand Finals of the Matthews Cup and SG Ball competitions.
The Matthews Cup Team have developed throughout the season, which is a credit to Glenn Brailey and his coaching staff as to the improvement they have shown individually and as a team.
They have an ability to keep it tight and play through the middle like they did in the wet last week, or if the opportunity comes to display their set plays and skills this team have some classy attacking players who can do that as well.
Their opponents Parramatta have been the standout team all year but when they played back in round two we competed very hard and pushed them right until the last 10 minutes before the Eels went on to win.
This team has definitely improved since that game and I’ve no doubt will play with tremendous spirit and team work.
As for the SG Ball, their season has told a different story. We always thought this team would have some success this year but injuries made things difficult early on with a number of key forwards watching the games from the grandstand.
When Coach Dave Howlett finally got some of those big boys back, the team started to build and had some good victories, six in a row in fact, and they’ve made a real impact on this year’s competition.
It took a win over this week’s grand final opponents Souths in the final round, then for another result to go their way, before they found themselves in a semi-final series.
As with the Matthews Cup, the confidence, skill level and team work during the finals has been a pleasure to watch. Saturday’s victory was especially pleasing as while they managed to score two great tries, it was their attitude to defend against a bigger Penrith side, for the full 70 minutes of the match, often for long periods on their line, which capped a great day for the club.
I encourage all Sharks supporters to get out to Leichhardt on Saturday to support our two teams, before heading back across town for our game against the Warriors at 5.30pm.
If you can’t get to Leichhardt, drop into the Leagues Club where we are hoping to stream the junior rep games live at 11.00am and 1pm. The games will also be televised on Fox Sports over the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out for when they are replayed.
Best wishes to our junior rep boys this weekend, you have represented your families and club with distinction this year and we are enormously proud of your achievements.
Just two more huge team efforts are required, which I know you are more than capable of.