THREE doesn’t ordinarily go into two but Illawarra coach Jason Demetriou’s effort at solving the complex equation could prove the key to the Cutters claiming the Intrust Super Premiership title over Mounties on Sunday.
Demetriou has had three quality halves at his disposal over the back half of the season with Drew Hutchison in fine form alongside the competition’s equal third leading point-scorer and NSW Residents halfback Shaun Nona and NRL veteran Josh McCrone who’s made the most of a shift to dummy-half.
The Cutters also boast Siliva Havili and Sam Coster in the hooking ranks. It’s a wealth of riches in key positions that can quickly turn into a headache if not properly managed but Demetriou said finding room for the quintet in the 17 has been the key to unlocking his side’s top form.
“That’s probably been one of the trickier things to manage McCrone, Hutchison and Nona,” Demetriou said.
“They’re three quality halves that would make any NSW Cup team without a shadow of a doubt. Getting them to play and all feel like they’re contributing has probably been something that's difficult but it’s a credit to them as people that they’ve worked that out and really bought into that together.
“They’ve realised that sometimes they’re going to have to make some sacrifices for the team but they haven’t hesitated to do that and that’s a part of the culture we’ve developed down here. We’ve also got Siliva Havili and Sam Coster who are two of the best nines’ in the competition as well. I think Sam Coster has been one of our best players all year.”
It saw Demetriou make the big call to start Hutchison from the bench in the Cutters win over Newtown in last week’s preliminary final.
The a move proved a masterstroke with a fresh Hutchison turning on a brilliant second half display as the Cutters overturned a 10-6 deficit with four minutes remaining to win 18-10, laying on the match-winner for Adam Quinlan with less than a minute left.
It saw McCrone play left and right as well as in the middle, a role he also played with Mounties last season, but he said he’s happy to do whatever the team requires.
“It was a tough and gritty game and I was happy enough to push out the entire eighty minutes due to some late injuries,” McCrone said.
“Personally it was tough for me to dig in the middle and then shift to both edges but I am happy we got through to the grand final. I’ve had a few partners in the halves and spend some time at hooker, but in all honesty I don’t have a preference. My preference at the moment is winning.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Coster who hasn’t missed a game for the Cutters this year shifting between hooker and lock.
“We definitely have a team first culture so wherever the coach puts you, everyone’s happy with the role they have,” Coster said.
“You just want the best 17 players out there whatever position your’re playing. It doesn’t bother me at all where I play, I just go out and do the job asked of me.”