RUGBY LEAGUE - ILLAWARRA COAL SHIELD
Norths captain Ellis Hurworth says the Bulldogs have treated their major semi-final loss to Corrimal as a blessing in disguise as they look to bounce back against the Cougars in Saturday’s Illawarra Coal Shield grand final at Dapto Showground.
Norths were the standout team through the Shield regular season, not dropping a game on their rise to the minor premiership before the unbeaten run was halted by the Cougars in the major semi two weeks ago.
The Dogs regrouped from the 16-10 loss to the defending premiers and bounced back with a 32-6 win over Mt Kembla in the preliminary final to earn a rematch with Corrimal in Saturday’s grand final in search of their first premiership since 1992.
Hurworth said shedding the ‘‘undefeated’’ tag prior to the decider may prove a valuable pressure release for his side.
‘‘It’s certainly not the way we wanted to go through the final series but it definitely is a monkey off the back,’’ Hurworth said.
‘‘It’s a bit of a catch-22, you always run the risk of picking up injuries when you play right through the finals but it’s let us work on a few issues where we were found wanting against Corrimal.
‘‘We’re taking it as a blessing and hopefully we come through on the weekend.
‘‘The boys know where we stand and what we do need to do to beat Corrimal.’’
Norths boast former Bulldogs NRL player Brad Morrin in their line up, as well as competition’s leading point-scorer Nathan Potter but Hurworth said they’ll have to tighten up their edge defence that was exposed by the Cougars two weeks ago.
Corrimal are heading into their third consecutive grand final and Cougars captain Dean Duncan said his side will look to utilise that big-game experience, as they tend to turn up for big games.
‘‘This is our third consecutive grand final and the boys are anxious to get out there and get into it,’’ he said.