Intrust Super Shute Shield: Week 1 Finals 1st Grade Match Previews
Manly (1) v Eastwood (6) – Saturday, 3:10pm
Minor premiers Manly will need to overcome an inconsistent finish to the regular season when they host sixth placed Eastwood in the opening match of the 2017 playoffs.
After starting the year with nine straight wins, the Marlins have won just two of their last four matches and have leaked on average 32 points a game in the back end of the season, compared to just 18 points a match in the opening nine rounds.
While coach Billy Melrose has rested players over the last two weeks, the Marlins still have a few injury concerns heading into the finals. Halfback Matt Lucas won’t play again for Manly this year, while Mitch Lewis, Gunnz Fuavao, Kotoni Ale, Cam Bailey and Josh Turner were all in doubt earlier this week.
Eastwood have also struggled in the back end of the regular season since losing flyhalf Jai Ayoub to a season ending injury.
After testing a number of combinations, Blake Sutton was handed the vacant No.10 jersey a month ago and while results haven’t gone the Woodies way, Eastwood’s attack has looked more consistent since the new playmaker took reign.
In a rematch of the 2015 grand final, Eastwood must start well and allow Tom Hill to keep the scoreboard ticking over with the boot. If they can do that and trouble the Manly defence, we could have a game on our hands.
Sio Tatola/Mitch Lewis, James Hilterbrand, Alex Westgarth/Gunnz Fuavao, Junior Palau, Adrian Hall, Harry Bergelin, Sam Shires/Kotoni Ale, Dan Alley, Tim Donlan, Sam Lane, Tom Chesters, Kevin Fuavao, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Jacob Woodhouse/Cam Bailey, Josh Turner/Jacob Woodhouse.
Jed Gillespie, Hugh Roach, Rob Lagudi, James Neale, Adam Campbell, Michael Kovacic, Tevita Piukala, George Kent, Matt Gonzalez, Blake Sutton, Zac Mackay, Tom Hill, Mike McDougall, Fabian Goodall, Liam Windon.
Warringah (3) v Randwick (4) – Saturday, 3:10pm
Warringah and Randwick both began playing finals like footy a week early this year, with tough clashes against Norths and Souths respectively in round 18.
Warringah outlasted Norths 18-11 to secure home ground advantage, while Randwick fell just short against Souths in a bruising contest at Coogee Oval.
The Galloping Greens dropped from second to fourth on the back of the final round defeat, and lost centre Dave Horwitz and No.8 Sam Croke to injury for what could be a must win clash for both sides on Saturday.
But it’s not all bad news for Randwick fans. Coach Shannon Fraser has added former Wallabies Steve Hoiles and Adam Freier to his starting side, while outside backs Andrew Kellaway and Henry Hutchison will both improve after returning last weekend.
Warringah flyhalf Hamish Angus will miss another match, handing 34-year old former London Irish playmaker Myles Dorrian a second straight opportunity in the No.10 jersey, while 37-year old club veteran Cam Treloar will also start at lock.
The Rats beat Randwick 30-29 when the two sides met back in round 13 and while both sides will be boosted by the added experience to their starting line ups, fresh legs may be crucial in the closing stages, on the back of a tough weekend in round 18.
In a massive day for the Rats, all four Warringah grade sides will play a semi final at home, starting with fourth grade from 10:15am.
Rory O’Connor, Rob Kelly, Sam Needs, Jack Tomkins, Cam Treloar, Maclean Jones, Tom Connor, Sam Ward, Josh Holmes, Myles Dorrian, Harry Jones, Josh Gillard, Seb Wileman, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Dave Feltscheer.
Tristain Goodbody, Adam Freier, Cameron Betham, Esei Ha’aingaa, Ed Kennedy, Nick Kellaway, Jack Johnson, Stephen Hoiles, Mitch Short, Andrew Deegan, Andrew Kellaway, Ben Starkey, Henry Hutchinson, Latu Latinipalu, Lachlan Anderson.
Southern Districts (2) v Northern Suburbs (5) – Sunday, 3:10pm
Southern Districts haven’t forgotten how they were ambushed by an in form Northern Suburbs side in last year’s preliminary final at Forshaw Park.
While the Rebels couldn’t get the job done in 2016, they’ll take a lot more confidence into Sunday’s clash on the back of nine straight wins, dating back to a loss to Sydney Uni in round nine back in late May.
Norths famously won 13 straight matches on the way to winning their first premiership in 41 years last season, but have struggled to find that form consistently in 2017.
Since losing to the Rebels 37-33 in round 14, the Shoreman have won three of their last four matches and welcome back Waratahs forward Michael Wells for a match they must win to keep their season alive.
Souths scored a late try to beat Randwick and secure second spot at Coogee Oval last weekend but the win came at a cost.
Just a week after losing former Brumbies No.9 Dewet Roos for the season, reserve halfback Eli Pilz tore his hamstring in the final play of the match against the Galloping Greens.
Sam Harris will start his first match in the top grade after spending most of this season playing between second and third grade.
The Rebels forwards produced arguably their best performance of the season against Randwick last weekend and if Harris can steer them around the park on Sunday, they will be hard to stop.
But Norths know how to win matches at this time of the year and will like their chances of causing an upset down south on Sunday.
Southern Districts (1-15)
Conor Young, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Duncan Chubb, Angus Ryan, Jake Douglas, Alex Perez, Marcus Carbone, Jed Holloway, Sam Harris, Rohan Saifoloi, Alex Gibbon, Apolosi Latunipulu, Luke Smart/Denny Godinet, Ben Connolly, Jamie Verran.
Northern Suburbs (1-15)
Ezra Luxton, Sam Kitchen, Lawrence Hunting, James Brown, Conor Vest, Gary Bautz, Will Miller, Hugh Sinclair, Nick Duffy, Angus Sinclair, Lachlan Creagh, Harry Burey, Cameron Clark, Richard Woolf, Augustin Slowik.