First Grade Finals Preview

By Matt Hughes (NRL Vic Media)

Men’s (Kick off at 2pm at Field 1 Haines Drive Reserve)

In the NRL Victoria men’s first grade final this Saturday the Truganina Rabbitohs will face the Altona Roosters for the 2019 premiership. This marks the first time in three years that Werribee Bears have not featured in the showpiece event, after they had a disappointing finals series, bowing out in straight sets.

Altona earnt their spot in the final with a golden-point thriller over the Bears last week, cementing their first grand final appearance since 2013.

Roosters Coach Damien Riki was “extremely pleased” by his side’s “hardworking” win.

The Roosters have had a phenomenal rise in 2019 after missing the finals altogether last year with only four wins for the season. This year they notched up ten regular season wins on their way to finishing in third spot. Incidentally one of those wins was a 22-16 victory over the Rabbitohs in round nine.

Riki believes they will take some confidence from that match.

“We will take confidence from the round one victory, however they did come out and beat us convincingly in round 15,” he said.

“It should be a real arm wrestle.”

The Roosters have had a tough lead up to the match with numerous players sustaining injuries over the last few weeks and have had to look to their reserves to fill their side.

Truganina on the other hand, will be looking to ice the cake on what has been a near-perfect season. The minor-premiers loss to the Roosters was their only defeat of the season and was avenged in round 15 when they won the reverse fixture 58-8.

Rabbitohs Coach Frank Mulipola says his side are looking forward to tomorrow after a much-needed week off.

“The match against the Bears was very physical,” he said.

“All the Boys are ready.”

Mulipola acknowledged that the Roosters will go in high on confidence.

“They are the form team of the competition and will be going in match hardened,” he said.

“We will be bringing our best though.”

Scoring shouldn’t be a problem for either side with three of the top five try-scorers playing in the fixture. Francis David Toetu and James Aspden for the Rabbitohs and Joshua Ka for the Roosters all have 11 four-pointers for the season.

Truganina go in as deserving favourites, but don’t be surprised however if Altona walk away with the silverware.

Women’s (Kick off at 4pm at Field 1 Haines Drive Reserve)

In the NRL Victoria women’s first grade final, Werribee Bears Black will do battle with the Truganina Rabbitohs in a repeat of last year’s concluding game. The final is fitting given both teams finished the regular season equal on 33 points.

Werribee took out the minor premiership on points differential and will be looking to go back to back after they won last year’s decider.

This year the Bears only regular season loss was a 16-8 defeat at the hands of the Rabbitohs in round one.

Similarly, the Rabbitohs only regular season loss came against Werribee in round 18, losing 16-0. A win on Saturday will give them their second title in three years and go some way to avenging last year’s heartbreaking two-point loss.

The two teams most recently clashed two weeks ago in the major semi-final, with the Bears taking a 14-point win. Bears Coach Chris Kilgarriff says his side won’t be too focused on that however.

“You can never go in too confident and they are coming off a strong win,” he said.

Kilgariff expects the match to be a battle of the forwards.

“We need to dominate up front and lay a platform for the backs,” he said.

“We expect their forwards to dominate as well. It will be a battle of who lasts the longest.”

Both sides are packed with stars, with the Bears trio of Natasha Watts-Tehiko, Amelia Ansell and Grace Tooala combining for 35 tries for the season, while Janetta Vaioletama for the Rabbitohs has nine tries for the year.

Just like the regular season where both teams couldn’t be split, expect a tight contest that will come down to whichever team makes the most of their chances.


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