Illawarriors ready to end 10 years of heartache

RUGBY UNION - NSW COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP

Illawarriors coach Brendan Schoupp is confident his side will end a 10-year drought at this weekend’s NSW Country Championship in Mudgee.

Champions in 2004, Illawarra have endured a lean run since.

The Illawarriors were in touching distance of victory last year when they led arch rivals Newcastle at half-time in the final but the Novocastrians fought back with a strong second-half performance to steal Illawarra’s thunder.

Schoupp, who guided Camden to their first premiership title in 18 years last season, believes the Illawarriors are primed to finally reclaim the Country crown.

‘‘It’s a very good squad. We’ll have high quality first graders coming off the bench,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got 23 players who can all contribute equally and that’s the key to us winning it. We’re stronger off the bench and that’ll help us maintain our performance for 80 minutes.’’

Illawarra battle Central West in one semi-final on Saturday, while Newcastle meet Central North in the other semi-final. The winners progress to Sunday’s final.

‘‘We’re playing Central West on their home turf and we’re not looking past that game,’’ Schoupp said.

‘‘All reports [are] that they’ve targeted this game and built a very good team. We know it’s going to be extremely tough.’’

The Illawarra under-20 Colts are also Mudgee-bound. The Colts are up against New England in Saturday’s semi-final clash.

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