A FRIENDSHIP forged in a local pizza shop many years ago will be put on hold when the Muswellbrook Rams and Aberdeen Tigers lock horns in the BHP Billiton Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League decider at Olympic Park on Saturday.
Muswellbrook’s Cade Boney and Aberdeen’s Daniel Hoogerwerf once worked together at Eagle Boys.
But, this weekend, they’ll be hoping to serve it up to each other as opposing captains in the first grade grand final.
“We were ‘dough boys’ about the age of 14 or 15,” Boney recalled.
“So, it’s funny we’re now leading our respective sides against each other in the 2017 showdown.
“I know at the Rams, we have a lot of mutual respect for the Tigers.
“And, hopefully, we’ll be playing in front of a packed house, as it’s a big local derby.
“It’s been a while since Muswellbrook and Aberdeen met in a Group 21 decider, maybe the early 2000s.”
The Rams surged into the fixture on the back of a strong victory over the Singleton Greyhounds in the major semi a fortnight ago, while the Tigers accounted for the same rival at Pirtek Park last weekend.
“Having the break was good [for the boys],” Boney said.
“It gave a few guys the chance to rest, or overcome, some injuries.
“While we were disappointed to lose last year’s decider, we’re not dwelling on it.
“Every grand final is different – and we’re treating it that way [this season].
“Whoever turns up on the day, and wants it more, will win.”
Hoogerwerf believes the Tigers enter the fray in a “good place”.
“There’s no pressure on us at all,” he said.
“Muswellbrook finished as minor premiers, and we snuck into the play-offs, so we’re the underdogs.
“Our loss to Greta Branxton, however, was a real wake-up call.
“The players sat down and shared a few hard truths.
“Since then, we’ve won every game to make it this far.
“I have to thank Shane Hasselmann for his assistance, too.
“Aberdeen is a passionate rugby league town and we know everyone’s behind us.
“So, we’ll go out there and give it our all.”