THE Shoalhaven Rugby Club will aim to finish their 50th year on a high, when its third grade side takes on Camden in the grand final on Saturday at WIN Stadium.
After winning the premiership in 2017, Shoals made a slow start to their title defence, losing two of their first three matches.
But after a number of players returned to the side, the Shoals ripped off 11 straight wins.
“We started the season slowly, due to us trying to incorporate a couple of new players, as well as missing a couple of players in key positions,” coach Luke Porter.
“But then things started to click and we started to really play some strong rugby.”
Just when it appeared like the Shoals would finish the season on a winning streak, after securing the minor premiership, they lost their final two games of the season.
“Those two losses at the end of the season were good for us – they helped us re-focus and showed us that we weren’t unbeatable,” said Shoals’ long-time half-back Matt Lane.
Combine those two losses with two byes and the Shoals, captained by Ben Dennis, had a less than ideal run into their semi-final against Bowral.
Despite that, Shoals won 13-5, to qualify for their second successive grand final.
“It’s always exciting to make it into a grand final and all the boys are pumped,” Lane said.
The last time Shoals played Camden was on June 23, when they won 17-7, but Lane is expecting a vastly improved side since then.
“Their team would have improved a lot since we last played them, much like ours has,” he said.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a hot day, which will suit us, as it will tire out their big forwards easier.
“With that being said, we will rely on all 15 players starting and the seven on our bench to do a job on Saturday.”
Coach Porter echoed the thoughts of Lane.
“We have a good balance in the side – combining the experience of the players who have been at the club for a number of years with the young and exuberant players,” Porter said.
“I think that’s the main reason we have been so successful this year and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday.
“We know what we have to do if we want to win the premiership.
“If we do win, it will be massive for the club, especially in its 50th year.
“It shows, along with first and second grade just missing the finals, that the club is headed in the right direction.”
Shoals third grade squad: Ash Henry, Duncan Madge, Ron Willet, Jason Vaughan, Adam Sargent, Tutai Aberahama, Richard Murphy, Ben Dennis, Matt Lane, Joe Calcraft, Timmy George, Mark Sproule, Michael Dun, Jed Rickets, Jimmy Hendrix, Dave Sproule, Locky Cavanagh, Leith Cooper, Matt Crossley, Phil Duncan, Tom Hayburn, Joel Laver, Jake Murphy, David Roebuck and Tyson Sue.