Illawarra Coal Cup Grand Final- Collies
Collegians have been working up to Illawarra Coal Cup Grand Final against Helensburgh at WIN Stadium on Sunday with methodical efficiency under the guidance and planning of senior coach Scott Logan.
Collies completed the regular season on equal competition points with Grand Final opponents the Tigers but were awarded the minor premiership because of a better for and against points differential.
Collies advanced to the Grand Final with a thrilling 30-28 win over the Burgh in the major semi-final at Collegians Sports Centre a fortnight ago thanks to two late tries by captain Jarrod Thompson and goalkicking halfback Sam Duggan.
Logan has described the premiership rivals as “two evenly matched teams.”
“Even though we’ve had some decent scorelines throughout the season, the major semi-final probably showed how close the two teams are,” Logan said.
“Obviously we’d like to play a little bit better but I’m anticipating a close, hard fought game.” Logan is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding the final composition of the team.
Most interest surrounds whether or not Illawarra Division prop Rory O’Brien will play. O’Brien missed the major semi-final after having surgery on a broken finger.
“We’ve carried a squad for the last three weeks now so Rory will come back into the squad and he is a chance of playing. But he is the same as everyone at the moment. “We haven’t finalised our 17 yet. So we will assess him later in the week as we will be with a number of players.”
The last clash between these two outstanding teams was an absolute cracker.
Helensburgh led 22-10 after 50 minutes before Collies scored two tries to cut the lead to 22-20. The Tigers scored again to make it 28-20 before those two late tries by Thompson and Duggan, the first of them converted by Duggan, in the 74th and 77th minutes respectively earned the Dogs a 30-28 win to go straight into the Grand Final.
The major semi-final produced a classic contest and keen, neutral followers of the Illawarra Coal Cup are eagerly anticipating the premiership decider.
“I’m sure from a spectator’s point of view it was a good game to watch but from the coaching box, it wasn’t exactly what we trained for,” Logan said.
“But as I said to the boys, I’m not sure another team in the league could’ve come back and did what they did.
“We learned a lot. It was almost like having a loss and it’s character building to know that when things didn’t go right for us and we probably weren’t executing as well as we would’ve liked, some of our game plan went out the window, we just found something extra and that’s what finals football is about.
“And it’s nice to know that that gear is there if we need it. Hopefully we don’t have to rely on that on the weekend and we play some better footy. But it was a good result in the end anyway to get us through.”
In a complete team effort to get the Dogs into the Grand Final, two players who have stood out throughout the season are halfback Duggan and dangerous dummy-half runner and No. 9 Jimmy Storer.
“Those two have been fairly consistent all year and they make up half of our spine there so they’re important players for the team and we’ll be asking them to put their hand up again on Sunday,” Logan said.
Obviously the forward pack will have to lay the foundation and both teams are strong in that area, so spectators can expect a keen struggle again in the middle and on the fringes.
“I think actually Helensburgh got the upper hand there with our forwards [in the major semi-final] and they came out and played with a bit more intensity in the first half,” Logan said.
“Obviously we fought our way back. But that’s a big challenge to our forwards and it’s a challenge that I’ll be issuing them before the game and like I said, hopefully they can rise to the occasion and put up a better performance there.”