NSW COUNTRY CHAMPS
Confidence is high among the Illawarriors heading into tomorrow's NSW Country Championship semi-final against Central Coast at Tamworth.
The Warriors automatically qualified for the semi-final on the strength of last year's runner-up finish to perennial champions Newcastle.
Illawarra haven't won the title since 2004 and are hungry to finally end the Novacastrians' reign at the top.
"We're sick of Newcastle winning it. We want to draw a line in the sand," Illawarra coach Brendan Schoupp said.
"We're going to have to fight really hard and play very extremely well to win it, but this group of guys have definitely got it in them. They've got what it takes to bring it home.
"Obviously we can't get caught out looking ahead. We have to take care of a very capable Central Coast outfit first."
Unlike past recent years, virtually every player registered with the IRU made themselves available for selection.
"The most pleasing thing from a coaching point of view is that all the top players put their hand up this year, so we've got the best available squad we can pick," Schoupp said.
"We all come from different clubs, but we're all here for the same reason and we'd love to see Illawarra win that championship. It's been a long time since we've won it. It's just a matter of us having a crack at it."
The Warriors started training just before Christmas, beating Canberra Wests and narrowly losing to Penrith in their trials.
"Their preparation has been really good. It's a credit to the players and I've really enjoyed it," Schoupp said.
"It's a really good mix. There's some good, seasoned guys and good up and coming players. It's been really easy to put the guys together and they've taken everything on board.
"There's some skilful players there and experienced players, but the one thing that's impressed me most is their ability to come together. "
Schoupp said the Warriors were keen to send off some of their veterans on a high note.
"There's a few blokes that are only going to have this opportunity to win a Country championship for a little longer," he said.
"Gavin Holder, Timmy Olsen. I'd love to see them win a championship. They really deserve it.
"We've got as good a chance as any previous years. It's a very good team."
*For Twitter, we can paste this code into any story: Follow @mercury_sports