Grand Final Preview
“We rep you all in GF”. Tweet John Manenti.
Eastwood has had a very successful year with two of the six teams making it to the second week of finals going through to grand final day. Another amazing year for the club. It is going to be a long day at Concord Oval with fourth grade minor premiers, Eastwood, taking on defending premiers, Sydney University, kicking off the day at 9.05 am. The day culminates with our first grade side playing Southern Districts starting at 3.00 pm. Finals football can be cruel with many what ifs and if onlys thrown around as teams who have played so well all year bow out. The result doesn’t take away from the fact all the four sides who didn’t make it through to the grand final had fabulous seasons and left nothing on the park except blood and skin. They all put up fantastic efforts in the true Eastwood spirit. Now to finish off the season with two premierships. The turn out at Manly Oval was fantastic. With the performance on the field and the support from the stands we nullified the local support. We need that repeated this Saturday and if possible we need the WOODIES VOICE to be there from kick off of fourth grade. With University playing in the three proceeding games it will be interesting to see who their supporters barrack for, that is if they stick around, in first grade.
Grand Final Saturday Concord Oval
Fourth Grade Vs Sydney University Kick Off 9.05 am
Of all four games this is the only one that features the two top sides and a repeat of last year’s grand final. Also Eastwood is only one of two minor premiers that made it through to the grand final.
Teams Head to Head.
Eastwood Sydney University Finished 1st 2nd Wins 17 18 Losses 3 2 4 Try Bonus Points 13 6 Points For 683 545 Points Against 208 215 Final Week 1 Beat West Harbour 24 – 12. Beat Eastern Suburbs 17 – 11. Final Week 2 Beat Manly 17 – 13. Beat Warringah 27 – 10.
Eastwood have won their last five games while University has been undefeated for the last 15 matches. Both teams come into the grand final with an impressive record throughout the season. Eastwood showed what they are made of last Saturday at Manly Oval when their commitment to each other was put to the test. Starting strong and leading on the scoreboard Eastwood were mounting pressure when a split second decision by Mitch Magrath part way through the game changed the balance of the contest. It resulted in a red card and reduced to team to 14 players for a large part of the game. Manly lifted with this change in player numbers and when reserve prop Heath Toon was yellow carded late in the game Eastwood were down to 13. Manly continued to mount pressure and raid after raid on the Eastwood line but the boys dug deep and defended with increased vigor which is what the Woods spirit is all about. They were justly rewarded for their commitment denying Manly and marching into the grand final. University have been their nemesis this season inflicting two of their three losses. Both games have been close encounters but grand finals are not won on previous form. Experience at these big games will be important with a number of players in both sides appearing in last year’s grand final. Eastwood have three players who played in last year’s successful third grade side and will bring this experience to the game. University beat Eastwood 31 – 10 last year and will be wanting to make it two in a row. Eastwood have only won fourth grade once – way back in 2003 – so another win is well over due. Eastwood stepped up last week and have sent a warning signal that they are minor premiers for a reason and will not be intimidated by University’s early season victories. There is only one change to last week’s team with Dave Sutton coming off the bench to replace the suspended Mitch Magrath. A excellent game to kick off the grand final and Eastwood have a great chance to become the first minor premiers of 2014 to be crowned premiers.
First Grade Vs Southern Districts Kick Off 3.00 pm
Eastwood again find themselves playing off for the Shute Shield they last won in 2011. This time there is no Sydney University who have been there for nine years in a row. Southern Districts have yet to win the Shield. They had a crack back in 2012 and came agonisingly close going down by a single point. Both sides have had team changes since their last grand final appearance, but still have players with grand finals experience in their ranks. Eastwood captain Hugh Perrett was there to lift the Shield back in 2011. Ben Batger also played in that epic battle and both will bring this experience to the rest of the Eastwood side. The two sides have shown in all three encounters in 2014 there is nothing between them and it will come down to who wants it the most, who can keep mistakes to a minimum and who converts their opportunities.
Teams Head to Head.
Eastwood Southern Districts Finished 2nd 5th Wins 16 11 Draws 0 1 Losses 4 8 4 Try Bonus Points 13 9 Points For 751 593 Points Against 464 557 Final Week 1 Lost Southern Districts 36 – 38. Beat Eastwood 38 – 36. Final Week 2 Beat Manly 32 – 20. Beat University 27 – 25.
Last weekend saw two bruising games with both going down to the wire. The recovery from these games will be critical to how the teams line up on Saturday. Both teams will have a fresh reserves bench that will have an impact on the result as will the accuracy of the goal kickers. Results this season between Eastwood and Southern Districts have been mixed with all games going the full 80 minutes. Eastwood have scored more tries in each of the three games played with goals making the difference. Had Eastwood not missed the last minute goal in the first week of the finals we would not have this exciting game to look forward to this Saturday. The Rugby Gods operate in mysterious ways. Souths have been playing finals football for a number of weeks now and this constant pressure will be taking its toll. Do they have one more such game in them or will they run out of stream? Eastwood showed last week what they are capable of when it matters and put in their best all round game of the season. A repeat of this with minimal errors will make them hard to beat. There is only one change this week with Nick Batger ruled out unfit (can he do a Lazarus like brother Ben?). His place is taken by Ben Shorter who has made a number of appearances in the top grade this year. Southern Districts have also made one change bringing Waratah Kane Douglas in for his brother Jake. Grand Finals are funny things and it is all about what happens on the day and who makes the most of their opportunities. Go Woodies!!