WANDERERS coach Viv Paasi highlighted that the Two Blues have had “a lot of challenges thrown at us over the last few weeks”.
What’s more, the second-year head coach reckons they have enough petrol in the tank for one more.
Wanderers will take on Hamilton in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The battle between the top two teams on the ladder is a repeat of the 2015 decider, which the Hawks won 14-7.
“One more challenge to go,” Paasi said after the Two Blues crushed Southern Beaches 43-17 in the preliminary final. “Hamilton awaits. All the boys are pumped for that challenge.”
Again, the Two Blues face a huge challenge against the minor premiers.
Having already lost representative back-rowers Dan Kevill (suspension) and Cal Groth (concussion), they will be without 2014 Anderson-medal winner Ben Ham for the big one.
The breakaway and “backbone of the side” was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the win over Beaches and picked up his third yellow card of the campaign. Ham was ruled to have entered the ruck from the side. It was the Two Blues’ third infringement in quick succession and Ham was sent to the sinbin.
Wanderers were in front 17-0. Southern Beaches scored a minute later to cut the margin to 10 points. It was as close as they got.
Wanderers winger Tim Marsh scored a trademark runaway try to extend the margin back to 17 points at half-time. Dillon Rowney crossed for his second five minutes after the restart to blow the game open.
The result was a reversal of the qualifying final, which Beaches won 43-18.
“The game plan didn’t change too much from the last time we played them, but we executed well today,” Paasi said.
Wanderers literally belted each other for an hour at training in the lead-up to the preliminary final in preparation for Beaches’ bash and barge tactics.
“We had a pretty tough training session through the week, working on that pick and drive area," Paasi said. “We basically belted each other up. We got a few bumps and bruises from it. We talked about the fact it was all or nothing.”
Wanderers aimed up physically from the get-go. They capitalised on two turnovers early and jumped out to a 17-0 lead after 10 minutes. From there they didn’t let Beaches in the game.
“In semi final football, if you can build a lead it puts pressure on the other team,” Paasi said.
Southern Beaches captain Va Talaileva, who was outstanding, agreed that the match was decided in the opening exchanges.
“If you don’t start from the first minute, teams like Wanderers will make you pay,” Talaileva said.
Regardless, TalaiIleva was proud of Beaches’ season.
“No-one expected us to be here,” he said. “We ended up coming third and will better for it next year.”