THE Steamers are hot favourites to win the Southern Inland Rugby grand final on Saturday, say the coaches of those teams on the sidelines.
Key players in key positions and a dominant forward pack are expected to be too much for the Wagga Waratahs.
But some of opposition coaches believe Albury’s backline is vulnerable and question whether the Steamers can adapt to a different game plan.
CSU coach Mick Wakeling, whose Reddies have tested the Steamers and were beaten by a point in last weekend’s preliminary final by Tahs, believes it will be a blowout.
“The strength of both sides is their forwards and Albury’s are better at that game,” he said.
“We were the only team really able to push the Steamers all year and much of that was about a game plan that denied them possession and spun the ball wide.
“Waratahs have some weapons out wide but not enough to outgun the Albury backline.”
Wagga City and rep coach Mick Small said the Steamers had been the best team all year.
“Now they have had a week to rest — were able to sit up there on Saturday and watch Waratahs and CSU slug it out around the paddock — they will win easily,” he said.
“Waratahs will no doubt look to their kicking game for field position but they will need to kick to the wings rather than James Olds at fullback — you really don’t want to give him room to run.”
CSU coach Richard Turnbull said the Steamers were hot favourites.
“They have been the benchmark all year, playing clinical rugby,” he said.
“They have very few weaknesses but there is a belief that their vulnerability may be out wide — CSU was the only side able to push them and there is no questioning the quality and speed of their backline and wingers.
“The key for Albury will be Richard Manion at fly-half and whether he is able to dictate play.
“Grand finals are a very different to other-away season and Albury must be up to the challenge.”
Griffith coach Lee Kimball said he was expecting another a tight tussle.
“Steamers have quality and experience in key positions,” he said.
“But I think this match will be a lot closer than many may predicted three weeks ago.
CSU has proved if you can keep the ball from them for long enough. they don’t really have a plan B.
“If Waratahs win, it will be 12-10, but if the Steamers get on top, they can run in 50-plus points in the blink of an eye.”