Albury Wodonga Steamers | Five key points

Mick Raynes talks to the boys during Steamers training. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
Mick Raynes talks to the boys during Steamers training. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

THE Steamers who run onto the field tomorrow might have been in the running to be part of their club’s greatest era.

The Border team won successive premierships in 1999-2000 and victory in this year’s premiership decider will see the players equal that record.

But it might have been even greater glory, in this their third consecutive grand final.

In 2012 the Steamers lost the minor premiership by one point to Wagga Ag College and the major semi-final by the same margin, again against the students.

They then lost the grand final by one point when Aggies scored a converted try a few minutes from full-time.

But history will count for little if the Steamers hold the premiership trophy aloft.

LIKE in most things, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Waratahs only crossed the Steamers’ line once last week and the Border team certainly has a big reputation for keeping the opposition from scoring when things are tight.

But the statistics of the teams are remarkably similar.

Griffith scored 445 points this season and conceded 338, while the Steamers amassed 444 points and had 331 scored against them.

It doesn’t get much closer than that.

But in the end, the Blue and Golds will have to enforce a strict and disciplined defensive pattern, particularly in the backs.

They simply can not let their opponents have the room to move to unleash their attacking weapons.

Steamers flyhalf Richard Manion and his opposite number tomorrow, Fijian international Dan Rawaqa rank among the very best players in the competition and will figure prominently in the Bill Castle Medal count.

Both have different games but both are still match-winners.

Manion plays close to the advantage line, always looking to put a teammate through a gap with his sublime ball skills.

Although heavily marked by opposition defences he regularly slips through, close to the ruck and maul.

Rawaqa is your typical Fijian flyhalf, with his speed and elusiveness also showing up opposition defences.

Who wins the contest will have a major influence on the final result. And both will be relishing the challenge.

MUCH has been written about the Steamers’ structure being superior to Griffith.

But the Steamers had trouble with their lineouts and scrums against Waratahs last week and if they can’t at least win their set pieces they could be in trouble.

The Blue and Golds have shown that their backline can rip opposition defences to shreds, especially through the likes of Richard Manion and Liam Krautz.

Perhaps the difference is that the individual brilliance of the Griffith players means they can turn a game on its head from just about anywhere on the field.

So the Steamers will need to be strong up front and disciplined in order to starve the Griffith backs of the ball.

The co-founder of The Steamers died earlier this year after putting up a massive fight against illness.

Although he was never a superstar on the field, John “Sykesy” Sykes embodied everything that is good about rugby and he imbued the spirt of the game into everybody he came into contact with — even the non-believers.

Anybody who has come into the club has been quickly made aware by others of John’s legacy and the fact they were in the Steamers blue and gold largely because of him.

Sykes would be horrified players felt under any pressure to win in his memory.

He would have told them that they were playing for each other and then the club.

John will be with them in spirit tomorrow — whatever the result.