LOWER CLARENCE PRIDE: Cossacks, Buccanettes going for glory
RUGBY UNION: Just three weeks ago the Far North Coast Rugby Union finals kicked off and both the Iluka Cossacks and Yamba Buccanettes had an uphill battle to even create a chance at a grand final berth.
Now on the eve of grand final day, both Lower Clarence sides find themselves gearing up for the big dance in the President's Cup and women's sevens competitions up in Lismore.
Cossacks coach Glen Ayres was aware of the mammoth task ahead of them but he always had faith in his side.
"It's an amazing feeling to sneak into the grand final, it's really been do-or-die since the start of the finals,” Ayres said.
"It's been a really tough year, we've had a lot to deal with off the field and it's been hard on it as well. We've had to play a number of games short of players and we've had to forfeit some games but we've made it and there's a lot of excitement around the Lower Clarence area.”
Ayres said the round 19 win over the then unbeaten Yamba Buccaneers was the catalyst for a strong finals run but their grand final opponents, Evans River Killer Whales, posed a huge threat.
"That was a massive game, we were also relying on Tenterfield game as well and luckily they went down but it was pretty good to get up over our cross-river rivals, they've only had three losses all year and we gave them two,” he said.
"Evans River are always difficult, we haven't beaten since our last grand final win a few years ago and they're always a tough side to beat.”
But Ayres is confident the combination of youth and experience will work well in tomorrow's decider for the "small club”.
"We've got a good mix of young and old. A few of our quick backs have really stood up for us to it will be good to blood them in,” he said.
"Iluka have always been up around the mark but it's been hard to keep the small club alive. This is a big win for our president, Matty Lee, who has been brilliant. We'll take a fit squad to Lismore and we're all raring to go. We'll give it everything we've got.”
Yamba Buccanettes sealed their spot in today's final with a 17-14 win over Ballina Seahorses and coach Kris Thomsen is full of belief as the girls look to round off a historic inaugural year against Wollongbar-Alstonville.
"If we play to our style anything is possible, we've shown in the last two games that we're capable of winning this,” Thomsen said.
"They'll be running out with momentum and the club couldn't be prouder of the girls, we're trying to get as much support behind them as we can. They've earned their place and will be giving it their all in the grand final.”
President's Cup at Crozier Field, Lismore, 11.30am tomorrow.
Evans River: 1Les Moreman, 2 Connor Thornley, 3 Derrick Duignan, 4 Ryan Duncan, 5 Mark Harrington, 6 Joel Spoor, 7 Paul Hope, 8 Max Pye (c), 9 Luke Cleaver, 23 Dale Layland, 11James Slade, 12 Daniel Parker, 10 Adam Armistead, 14 Dale Higgins, 15 Michael Miskle, 16 Jarrad Cameron, 17 Chris Barnard, 18 David Mason, 19 Brody Scheerhorn, 20 Ken Young, 21Scott Willis, 22 Grant Cleaver, 13 Jacob George
Coach: Luke Cleaver
Iluka: 1Zac Newton, 2 Isaiah Mutton, 3 Rob Wake, 4 Nathan Callister, 5 Glenn Ayres, 6 Beau Oestmann, 7 Shaun Laurie(c), 8 Brodie Williams, 9 TJ Kapeen, 10 Grant Brown, 11 AJ Hickey, 12 John Hickey, 13 Shaquil Roberts, 14 Peter Laurie, 15 Lenny Anderson, 16 Peter Duncombe, 17 Matt Drury, 18 Ken Richards, 19 Garnett Williams, 20 Michael Randall, 21 Carl Laurie, 22 Jesse Breckenridge, 24 Ray Laurie
Referee: Matthew Clayton
Assistant Referees: Peter Brown, Louis Trisley
Women's 7's at Crozier Field, Lismore, 1pm tomorrow.
Wollongbar Alstonville: 1 Samantha Wright, 2 Brianna McLean, 3 Jordan Bennett, 4 Joanna Hills, 6 Samantha McKnight, 7 Mary Shelley, 8 Shana Povey-Hyatt (c), 9 Gemma Hills, 10 Lora-Jean Damen, 13 Molly Hughes, 14 Georgia Taylor, 15 Hayley Andryc
Coach: Ern Sandral
Yamba: 1 Leigh Johnson-Heron, 2 Mishika Randall, 3 Jessie McConnell, 4 Felicity Whitton, 5 Melanie Laurie, 6 Brooke Anderson, 8 Franceen Vesper, 9 Nada Khoury, 11 Judy Vesper(c), 12 Shari Cohen, 13 Olivia Bell, 14 Kelisha Williams
Coach: Kris Thomsen / Pat Hughes
Referee: Dylan Harris
Assistant Referees: Bruce Ward, Gloria Vann