HAMILTON coach Scott Coleman knows better than to take Southern Beaches lightly.
Not with Va Talaileva leading the Beaches pack and the Hawthorne Cup up for grabs.
The Hawks host the sixth-placed Beaches at Passmore Oval on Saturday. A win will secure a fourth straight minor-premiership for the home side and a break in the opening weekend of the finals.
Beaches won’t feature in the play-offs, but they are coming of a 40-34 win over Wanderers – they led 40-12 with 20 minutes remaining – and can take some consolation by snatching the Hawthorne Cup from the Hawks.
“This is their grand final,” Coleman said. “If they can win the Hawthorne Cup it would make their season. They started the season with it and would no doubts like to finish with it.”
Talaileva spent seven years at Hamilton, winning three premierships, before joining Beaches in 2013.
Although in the twilight of his career, Coleman expects Talaileva and fellow veteran Marlon Solofuti to lead the way.
“I have a lot of respect for Va,” Coleman said. “The way he can lift a team, he is such a good leader. If they need a tough carry or a turnover they look to Va. Marlon was very good against Wanderers: the best on the park by a mile. They will be very physical and compete at every breakdown. We have to be patient with the ball and at least match them at the breakdown and set piece. Hopefully with our fitness, we can run away with it in the last 20 minutes.”
The Hawks are without at least five regular first graders. Dane Sherratt, Angus Brown and Kirisome Laulala return in second grade on Saturday.
“There are definitely some selection headaches ahead,” Coleman said. “Every spot is up for grabs. If we win, we definitely have the minor premiership and will have the first week of the finals off. These next two games are crucial for everyone.”
Beaches will be without leading try-scorer Adrian Delore who suffered a head knock against Wanderers.
“With Adrian out, Caileb Gerrard will be their go to man out wide,” Coleman said. “Fiso Vasegote has been talking it up at training that he is going to smash them. He has mates there and promised on Thursday that he would win it for us.”
Merewether can seal third sport, and two chances in the semi-finals, with a win over Lake Macquarie, but Greens co-coach Mick Gill, like Coleman, is taking nothing for granted.
The Greens are without Jay Strachan, Billy Dunn, Ramiha Smiler, Billy Freeman, Eli McCulloch, Wendall Wilhelmus and Tom Smith.
“We are chasing five points to make sure we secure a top-three spot,” Gill said. “We have two games to get there but we would like to do it this week. We are expecting a tough encounter, very physical at the breakdown.”
Brendan Holliday returns for the Roos, who held Hamilton to 10-all at half time last round before fading.
Elsewhere Saturday, Singleton are at home to Nelson Bay and Maitland travel to University.