Relentless. Relationships. Accountability.
They are the three key words embroidered on the front of Mark Taufua’s grand final jersey.
It has been the main theme running through Western Suburbs’ 2017 season and the premiership favourites hope, with a little written reminder, this continues on Saturday afternoon when they meet Macquarie at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“It’s a nice touch [the jersey], and makes grand final day even more special, but that’s what we’ve been about all year,” the former Knights and Sharks player said.
“This will just help act as a little reminder for each other when it gets tough out in the middle.”
Wests have claimed almost half the Newcastle Rugby League premierships on offer the last two decades with nine trophies added to the cabinet from 1997.
But they have missed out the last two seasons and six-time Samoan representative Taufua, who at 36 next month may retire after this decider, wants to repeat the feeling from his first season at the club in 2014.
“If you’re not motivated the following year to make the grand final you shouldn’t be playing,” the Rosellas prop said.
“We’ve been disappointed in our performance at such a proud, strong club. We always set out bar high, prepare well and train hard so hopefully we reap the rewards.”
Opposition the Scorpions are also stinging, but for a different reason, having made the previous two showdowns and falling at the final hurdle.
First-season Macquarie captain and hooker Chris Hyde hopes it will be a case of third time lucky and a different way into the decider may assist breaking a 26-year title drought at Toronto.
“It’s a big achievement to make three in a row and shows how consistent we’ve been, but it [the losses] definitely fuels the fire and hopefully we can go one further this year,” the NRL Rookie finalist said. “It’s a huge honour to lead the boys out and this time around there’s no pressure on us at all. I’d love to bring it home.”
Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge said former Knights player Nathan Hinton, who was away in the US last start, will be elevated to replace injured winger Ryan Pywell (quad), who was ruled out after training on Thursday night.
Scorpions centre Royce Geoffrey (ankle) also remains sidelined meaning Mitch Manson stays on the left edge, Matt Simon at fullback and Tye Alchin on the bench.
Wests’ squad is at full strength but coach Matt Lantry said he was considering one undisclosed change with his starting line up.
It’s expected to reach 32 degrees by the time first grade kicks off.
First Grade: Western Suburbs v Macquarie (3pm)
Reserve Grade: South Newcastle v Western Suburbs (1:10pm)
Under 19s: Lakes v Cessnock (11:45am)
Ladies League Tag: South Newcastle v Central Newcastle (10:30am)