A CHANGE of rules has been a blessing in disguise for the Steamers’ reserve grade side who will miss the finals of the Walsh and Blair Cup.
The blue and gold second XV will now drop back into the finals of the second division Romano Cup under the plans agreed to by clubs earlier this year — but only in the second week of finals action.
It means the Steamers will have the luxury of eight fresh subs sitting on the bench for their major semi-final showdown with CSU on Saturday.
If they win, the reserve grade will take to the park the following week with up to eight players who haven’t missed a week of playing and don’t have to back up for the first grade bench.
The Steamers reserves finished fifth in the first division after a barnstorming final few rounds.
Director of coaching Steve Stone said the finals format was a positive that came out of a negative.
“We were all hoping the seconds were going to be in the semi-finals of the Walsh and Blair Cup — we wanted a fully fit second squad to help the firsts through, win it for themselves,” he said.
“But the way this now works out it looks like we are in some ways better off.
“All year our subs have been those players who have played seconds beforehand — some had played the whole game.
“Now on Saturday we can nominate a squad of 23 and have the opportunity to use eight fresh subs if we so choose.
“If we can win it will then mean we have a full squad to pick from for reserve grade the following week in the semis that will decide the grand finalist in that competition.”
But Stone said the Steamers needed the added depth with injury clouds over several key players.
Unstoppable prop James Kora will miss the weekend with a hamstring injury.
And the coaching staff was last night weighing up risking niggling injuries to some others including Dan Herden (ankle), Justin Wheatley (calf) and Mick Alexander (knee).
“We have to look at who is available, what’s the risk to the player if they suffer further damage on Saturday,” Stone said.
The Steamers reserves will play the winner of the knockout semi between Temora and Young in the second week of finals at a venue that is yet to be announced.