Thirroul Butchers hit form ahead of Coal League finals
By Mitch Jennings - Illawarra Mercury
The message from Thirroul captain-coach Luke Swain following his side's 34-4 demolition of Collegians on Saturday was ominous - "we're coming".
The Butchers went into the match at risk of missing the finals for the first time in 22 years, but ran in six tries against a willing yet understrength Collegians outfit to book themselves a minor semi-final date with Dapto this weekend.
The Canaries handed the Butchers a 26-16 defeat when the sides met two weeks ago but they'll need to bounce back from a 44-6 loss at the hands of minor premiers Helensburgh at Rex Jackson Oval on Saturday.
Wests also quashed Corrimal's slim finals chances with a 28-0 victory and will be looking to avenge a dying-seconds loss to the Tigers two weeks ago in Sunday's major semi-final at WIN Stadium.
Dapto will likely start as favourites on form but, with a roster that boasts numerous premiership wins, Swain said the Butchers were confident they could beat any team in the finals cauldron.
"We took it right back to basics," Swain said.
"It wasn't a pretty effort ... we kicked down their end and chased hard, tackled, and showed that it can work for us.
"That's what we're good at. We've got a lot of good mobile forwards so, if we can run teams off their legs, we can give this comp a real shake.
"We've still got to play better footy in the semis but we've got a bit of a platform there and showed we can put a game together - that's a big positive.
"It was old boys' day, the last home game of the year for us and we saw it as a do-or-die situation.
"We needed a win really badly after our last couple of performances and we can take a lot of that.
"We can get anybody in this comp. We know we can and I think everyone knows that.
"If we put a full game together we're really tough to beat so we're coming."
Young-gun Leigh Higgins got the Butchers off to a flyer when he went the length on a kick return to post the first try.
The home side extended its lead to 12-0 minutes later when Brent Grose powered his way across from close range.
Hayden Crosland got in on the act when he gathered a Ty McCarthy kick to push the lead out to 18-0 after barely 20 minutes.
Collies hit back with their only try of the match to keep things interesting at the break but it was all the Butchers after the resumption.
Luke Dodge managed to step his way across following an intercept from Damien Blanch and Joel Johnson finished off a great team try to put the result beyond doubt.
Pat Franks crossed from close range in the dying moments to put a exclamation point on the 34-4 victory.
The Butchers take on Dapto in the minor semi-final on Saturday night at Parrish Park ahead of Helensburgh and Wests' clash in the major semi at WIN Stadium on Sunday.