CENTRAL Newcastle coach Craig Miller is thankful that the Butchers Boys have done enough to finish third.
It didn’t lessen the disappointment of their meek 42-18 surrender to South Newcastle at Townson Oval on Saturday.
But in the grand scheme of things, the defeat, apart from a dip in confidence, didn’t have a big impact.
Central remain in third and will meet Macquarie in the qualifying final at Peacock Oval on Sunday.
Souths meet Lakes United, who disposed of Cessnock 28-4, in the elimination final at Cahill Oval on Saturday.
“We were poor, our attitude was poor … I can blame a lot of kids but if you play first grade you need to aim up,” Miller said.
“In saying that, we have to move on to the positives. We have done enough to run third and we need to move on as quick as we can. We get some troops back, Steve Gordon and Ethan Cooke, and we will aim up against Macquarie and see what happens. It is not the form you want going into the semis but it’s a new competition and we have to move on.”
Townson Oval was packed for South’s annual charity fundraiser, which was initiated and named after cancer survivor and first-grade premiership winner Peter Sleap.
“We were the sacrificial lamb for Sleapy’s day,” Miller said. “We dropped the ball from the kick-off. It was a bit like the Broncos on Thursday night. Souths led 24-0 before we got going. It was better to have it now than next week. We just have to put it behind us and move on.”
Souths remain in fifth despite the win but will take confidence into the sudden-death showdown with Lakes.
“Whenever you put 40 points on someone, your attack is in order,” Cross said. “Keeping a team to three tries, and one in the first half, is not too bad. We will definitely take a lot of confidence out of it, that is for sure.”
Cross feared that the hype around Sleapy’s Day may have been a distraction for the players.
“The guys really embraced it,” he said. “We only had a handful of guys who hadn’t played on Sleapy’s Day. We made sure the focus was on playing footy first and enjoying the festivities afterwards. The win was set up with the first-half performance. The boys put their nose to the grindstone and worked hard. We played nice and direct and had plenty of support around the ball.”
Although reluctant to single out any stand outs, Cross had praise for Luke Higgins, Chris Merlo and Lachlan Walmsley.
“Luke Higgins played really well in the middle,” Cross said. “He started at lock and pushed up into the front row and was strong. “Chris Merlot came up from reserve grade at seven and did a really good job on the edge. Lachlan Walmsley, as per usual, was strong at the back.”
Elsewhere, minor premiers Western Suburbs flexed their muscles with a 42-14 triumph over Maitland at Coronation Oval.
At Cahill Oval, Lakes gave their old boys plenty to celebrate in fives-tries-to-one rout over the Goannas.