AFTER months of tireless hard work, it comes down to just 80 minutes for the Shellharbour Sharks and Kiama Knights.
The two sides, out to end years of premiership heartache, will lock horns in Sunday’s Group Seven first grade decider, for a chance to lift the Artie Smith Trophy.
For Sharks’ skipper Matt Carroll, who won a number of competitions with Albion Park-Oak Flats earlier in his career, he wants nothing more than to bring a premiership back to his junior club – who haven’t won since 2001.
“I was actually the ball boy at Ron Costello Oval the last time the Sharks won the competition,” Carroll said.
“So to be able to hold up the club’s first premiership since that day, would be absolutely amazing.
“It’s been a dream of mine to win a competition here at Shellharbour, so to have another chance at achieving that goal on Sunday is something I don’t wan’t to pass up.”
To do so, Carroll knows his side have to go to another level, even though they thumped Kiama 46-14 two weeks ago in the qualifying final.
“Our preparation two weeks ago was spot on, with Abed [Atallah] putting the whole team in the best position to win,” he said.
“Everyone was on the same page and we are going to have to do the same on Sunday.
“The grand final will be won and lost in the middle of the park – whoever gets the best go forward will go a long way to winning the game.”
On the flip side, Kiama captain Kieran Poole and his side have put that loss two weeks ago in the back of their minds.
“They [Shellharbour] blew us off the park two weeks ago but we won’t let that happen again,” Poole said.
“We can’t let their forwards dictate terms in the middle, because they’re nearly impossible to stop once they get on a roll.
“Off the back of that, we have to put pressure on both Matt Carroll and Sam Clune, who just kept finding the corners with their kicks and putting us on the back foot two weeks ago.”
Poole, who’s team lost to Jamberoo in last year’s decider, would love nothing more than to end the Knights’ 33-year title drought.
“It would be epic to win the grand final for the club I’ve played all my footy at,” Poole said.
“I know the group we have here now are capable of something special – I can’t wait for us all to prove it on Sunday.”
The day at the Collegians Sporting Complex will start Albion Park-Oak Flats vs Shellharbour (WLT2 at 8.30am), followed by Mount Warrigal vs Wreck Bay (third grade at 9.50am), Albion Park-Oak Flats vs Milton-Ulladulla (under 18s 11.30am), Kiama vs Jamberoo (WLT1 at 1.10pm) and Kiama vs Albion Park-Oak Flats (reserve grade at 2.20pm).