Coaches' Corner: Premier Grade Grand Final Preview

Thu, Sep 14, 2023, 12:00 AM
Rugby Union SA
by Rugby Union SA

Burnside coach TJ Maualaivao believes his side are yet to hit their stride this season with another grand final showdown against Brighton looming large.

The Double Blues surprised most by toppling the Tigers 27-20 in their major semi-final but Maualaivao says there’s more to build on for Saturday’s big dance.

“We made it a bit tighter than we needed to be at the end of that game,” Maualaivao said.

“I thought it was a comfortable margin for a while but you can’t count Brighton out and they fought back well.

“It’s good we earned the break to focus on our own game and iron a few things out over that week – I think we made too many errors and we’re quite at 100 per cent – and being able to rest a few sore bodies was beneficial as well.”

Maualaivao was nevertheless pleased with his sides’ physicality against Brighton, singling out backrowers Nichel Lam Sam and Bailey Loftus for their hard-nosed approach.

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“We always wanted to position ourselves as top-two finishers to give ourselves the best chance at a grand final spot and we got there through our breakdown and defence.”

“Nichel was always going to step up for us, he’s been superb and showed his experience against Brighton but he was really well supported by Bailey who had a tough game that not many would have noticed.

“Lots of tackles, lots of work at the ruck – they both stood up.”

Meanwhile, Brighton coach Richard Wasley has described his side’s Premier Grade finals campaign as “some of the worst rugby” they’ve played all year but says they’re in a “good place” ahead of Saturday’s title defence.

The Tigers stumbled to a 27-20 loss to Burnside in Week 1 before needing a late surge to put Southern Suburbs away in last week’s preliminary final win.

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Wasley, however, is looking at the bigger picture.

“We’ve done it the hard way this year – I think the boys maybe just expected things to happen for them during finals and didn’t put in the work,” Wasley said.

“Honestly with that qualifier and with respect to Burnside, I literally didn’t think we could play that badly.

“I think having a couple of easy games leading up to finals hurt us and Burnside just shut us out defensively in Week 1.

“Even last week we weren’t overly good so I’m glad we’ve had these performances come out now rather than in the grand final.”

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Wasley was coy about which areas the Tigers needed improvement against Burnside, instead suggesting a week off wasn’t always the best path to a premiership.

“I won’t say too much, maybe a few little areas around our game management, but I think come Saturday we should have ironed things out.

“But couple of solid games doesn’t hurt us and sometimes that week off can be a curse.

“Either way, everyone’s keen to rip in and as long as we’re in it, I don’t mind who we’re playing.”

Premier Grade Grand Final (Burnside v Brighton) kicks off 3:30pm @ Southern Suburbs