THE Muswellbrook Heelers will be chasing grand final glory on Saturday, following success in the final last week.
The team returned to Newcastle for a third time in three weeks for the sudden death preliminary final against Minor Premiers Southern Lakes to secure their grand final spot.
It has been a couple of really tough weeks for the Heelers, but the team proved stronger than their adversaries.
The club was also celebrating milestone games to three players – Mitchell Googe (150), Doug Raphael (100) and Josia Besetimoala (50).
On a windy No 2 Sportsground, the boys had to ensure their kicking game was spot on and ball possession was a key to success.
The Heelers forward pack laid the foundation for the backs, to put the pressure on Southern Lakes.
With the wind behind them in the first half, points were needed, and, at half time The Heelers had a 15-0 lead.
Early in the second half, Southern Lakes managed to score out wide and bring the score to 15-5.
The Heelers continued with the game plan and played to their strengths and structure.
With majority of ball possession, they ran out convincing winners with a final score of 28-5.
But, the team is now looking forward, focusing all their attention on the upcoming grand final clash against Easts 1 on Saturday, at 10.45am, at No 2 Sportsground.
Coach Mick Hall said he didn’t want to change the training routine too much ahead of the match.
“We’ve pretty much kept it to the normal,” he said.
“We are going to do a few extra light runs this week.”
After missing out on the grand final by one game in 2016, Hall returned for a second year of coaching, hoping to guide the boys to the deciding match.
”You could see the basis for a good team this year,” he said.
“And, we’ve pulled a few of our older players that didn’t play the year before – guys like Mitchell Googe and Mark Snow and Chris Jeffree who hadn’t played for a while.
“We got to last week’s game last year, so we fell short of the final.
“We sort of sat down then and said what do we need to do.
“I was pretty cut up about it.
“We didn’t have a great year last year.
“So we did one better this year to go into the grand final.”
Aside from wins on the field, Hall said the team has benefited from a good culture throughout 2017.
“Everyone’s been enjoying it – it’s been really good,” he said.
“That’s what we wanted to do – get that enjoyment back.”
All are encouraged to support the Heelers in their Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union championship bid at No 2 Sportsground, Newcastle.