Both Mounties and the Warriors will be looking to blow away some late-season cobwebs when they take each other on in a sudden death final this Saturday at Panthers Stadium.
A strong start to the year had Mounties leading the competition mid-way through the season, but they’re currently on a five-game losing streak and will have to kick themselves into gear now that it’s do-or-die.
The loss of Craig Garvey has no doubt had a negative impact on Mounties in recent times, given he was one of the best players in the Intrust Super Premiership all year and playing such an important role in their attack. They will be, however, welcomed with the inclusion of Brendan O’Hagan in their side this week after there was fears his season could be over with a shoulder injury in Round 23.
Mounties have always been thereabouts when it comes to the pointy-end of the Intrust Super Premiership season, and are by no means a write-off come finals time. If anything, they are a serious danger team considering some of the names that will line-up against the Warriors this week.
Sitiveni Moceidreke, Tony Satini and Taane Milne are a massive back three that will no doubt get their sets off to a powerful start, and add in 2017 Intrust Super Premiership Team of the Year member Ed Murphy and 2018 NSW Under-16s Origin player Sebastian Kris, there are plenty of points in this Mounties outfit.
Corey Horsburgh has NRL written all over him, and played his teammate O’Hagan in the Under-20s Origin clash this year, with the former turning out for the Maroons.
The Warriors, on the other hand, will hope their miracle comeback against the North Sydney Bears last weekend has kicked them into gear for the 2018 finals series.
18 points in the final quarter of the game gave them a two point win over the Bears, which was needed considering their last win before that was in Round 16, ironically against Mounties.
The key for the Warriors is Chanel Harris-Tevita, the 19-year-old boom halfback that is doing big things in his first year of senior Rugby League. He scored two tries last week and kicked the winning goal with a cool head that is way beyond his years.
His battle with Tyler Cornish will be an exciting one. Cornish has had quite a number of halves partners this year given the revolving door the Intrust Super Premiership is, but he’s coming second in the competition for line-break assists (14) and has the most for his team (10).
The Warriors’ forward pack has always been their major strength, and Mounties have a big job ahead of them to limit their running metres. Tevita Satae has been a force to be reckoned with for the Warriors this year, charging off the back fence with over 2000 metres to his name.
The most interesting battle is Horsburgh versus James Bell, the two starting locks. Horsburgh, as mentioned before, has been on fire all year, but James Bell adds an extra dimension to the Warriors forward pack. In a team with a sizeable pack, Bell adds a ball playing skill-set at times, but also does the hard work having run 2365 metres for his team this season.
Round 16 was the last time these two played, with the Warriors coming away with a 24-20 victory largely thanks to a Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad double. Four points was the margin in Round 9 as well, but this time it was Mounties who got the chocolates with a Michael Oldfield hat-trick. Interestingly, Nicoll-Klokstad also scored a double in this game.
Therefore, literally zero points separate Mounties and Warriors this year; fittingly so, as finals football is a different beast, particularly when your season is on the line.