THE Illawarra Steelers are within reach of back-to-back SG Ball titles, after beating the Roosters to qualify for the grand final.
The Steelers won the under 19 title in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced the competition to be abandoned last year.
Still, fullback Tyrell Sloan, playmaker Junior Amone and forwards Joshua Coric and Trent Griffiths remain in the squad chasing a second SG Ball crown.
The Steelers conceded two late tries but marched into the decider with a 42-32 win over the Roosters in Sydney.
The Steelers, who were headlined by Albion Park-Oak Flats' Benjamin Lavender and Josh Coric, Stingrays' Trey Barlow, Gerringong's Cooper Roberts, Milton-Ulladulla's Riley Wooden, Warilla-Lake South's Tyrone Roberts and Kiama's Travis Barrett-Hancock, will now play Canberra on Saturday.
"Going back-to-back is not something we've spoken about, but it's just a great reward for all the hard work they've put in," coach Glenn Buffolin said.
"It's a different group, even though there are a few players there from 2019.
"They just work hard for each other and play what's in front of them.
"They're different squads from when we played Canberra earlier in the season, it should be a great contest."
The Raiders beat the Steelers 36-10 earlier this year, as Illawarra remarkably finished sixth on the ladder despite losing just two of their eight games.
Illawarra thrashed Souths 46-14 in an elimination final before overpowering the Roosters on Saturday.
Buffolin is optimistic several players are destined to be part of future Dragons squads.
"A lot of them deserve it," he said.
"I know they'll filter into the Jersey Flegg system, but hopefully some will earn a train and trial or development contract.
"They've done such a great job."
The other Steelers side in action on Saturday was Alicia-Kate Hawke's Tarsha Gale squad, who lost their 22-4 to the Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy in their semi-final at HE Laybutt Field.
A first half double to Roosters winger Charlize Lloyd-Phillips and a try to Ruby Smith saw the Roosters lead 12-nil heading into half-time.
It was much of the same at the start of the second half as the Zoe Cass and Keilee Joseph both ran in tries to give the Chooks an unassailable 20-nil lead.
Smith was successful with a penalty goal in the 41st minute and the game looked out of reach for the second-placed Steelers.
Determined not to be held scoreless, Steelers winger Annabel McDonald crashed over with two minutes remaining bringing the final score to 22-4 and ending the Steelers' Tarsha Gale premiership defence.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.