GROUP SEVEN RUGBY LEAGUE
Gerringong coach Mick Cronin won't be sure of his grand final line-up until later in the week but admits the Lions are likely to be without the competition's leading point-scorer, Joel Roberts.
Roberts broke his hand in Gerringong's 26-16 major semi-final loss to grand final opponents Warilla two weeks ago and missed the Lions 42-22 victory over Jamberoo on Sunday.
Forwards Michael Brown (shoulder) and Adam Moore (leg) also missed the grand final qualifier and are 50-50 prospects to take the field on Sunday.
"I find it hard to think Joel Roberts will be playing. He broke his hand in the first five minutes against Warilla," Cronin said.
"I've got to think Michael Brown's a chance. We left him until Sunday last week and on Saturday we thought he might be right but we decided he'd be smarter not to play and if we got through he'd play this week.
"Adam Moore's the other one and he was never a chance last week so I'll just have to see how he is."
The Lions backline didn't struggle to score points in Roberts's absence against Jamberoo, running in six tries in a first-half blitz, but will face a much tougher task against the Gorillas on Sunday.
Lock Brad Davidson moved to half-back and orchestrated the victory over Jamberoo with regular half-back Rixon Russell shifted to fullback and, barring a miraculous recovery from Roberts, Cronin will stick with the winning formula this weekend.
"He's always been a half or a five-eighth, Brad Davidson, so it was never going to be a problem for him and Rixon had a bit of fullback experience when he was up with St George under 20s."
They say styles make fights and Sunday's grand final shapes as a clash between flash and bash.
"That's probably right," Cronin said. "We like to play quick and they're probably a side that rely on their big forwards. But it's a game that's played all over the park and what Warilla's been good at all year is their defence."
Warilla have won 11 straight games going into Sunday’s decider and broke the Lions own 11-match winning streak two weeks out from the finals, but Cronin said his side won’t take too much other than a healthy respect out of the recent losses.
‘‘We learned they’re hard to beat,’’ he said.
‘‘We got into a situation [in the major semi-final] where we were leading with seven minutes to go and then dropped the ball and they ran 80metres so I think both sides respect the other’s ability to hang in there.’’
Gerringong’s grand final ledger sits at 1-2 going into their fourth straight grand final appearance but Cronin said that won’t provide any extra motivation for Sunday’s decider.
‘‘You can’t get bogged down in the past,’’ he said.
‘‘A few of those players in the other side [Warilla] we beat in one too, so they might have the same motivation.
‘‘I think come grand final day everybody wants to win, everybody’s all in the same boat.
‘‘Once you’re there you shouldn’t need any extra motivation as far as I’m concerned.’’