Fury runs on empty as Port showdown looms

HEADED NORTH: Kemblawarra's Kazuto Kushida is one of several Fury players who won't feature for the rest of the season. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

HEADED NORTH: Kemblawarra's Kazuto Kushida is one of several Fury players who won't feature for the rest of the season. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

The finish line is in sight, but the fuel light’s on. 

Will Kemblawarra Fury run out of gas or will the fumes of another grand final berth keep the Illawarra Premier League juggernaut rolling just that little bit longer?

History will tell you never to count them out.

But, as a preliminary final date with Port Kembla looms this Sunday at Memorial, the Fury have rarely looked more depleted. 

Since losing star striker Anthony Proia since midway through the campaign to a season-ending knee injury, Kemblawarra’s injury toll has continued to pile up. Veteran keeper Mitchell Blowes has hardly featured while two-time George Naylor medallist Robbie Shields has managed just seven games in 2017.

Then the nail in the coffin came last week.

Captain Alvin Ceccoli’s season tragically came to end due to an Achilles tear before fellow starting centre-back Brenton Rhodes lost his battle with an ankle injury.

To compound the double blow further, Kemblawarra also lost Japanese attacker Kazuto Kushida during the week due to VISA obligations. 

"I am telling you now we just can't take a trick,” Fury coach Luke McGuire said of his side’s predicament. 

"If we were to get to the grand final, it would be nothing short of a minor miracle with the amount of injuries we have had. We are really starting to hit the limit. There is no doubt about it, it is going to be tough but it was similar last year and we got through it. Our guys are pretty resilient."

No loss will be felt more than that of inspirational skipper Ceccoli. The club stalwart has been a colossus for close to a decade before succumbing to his season ending injury midway through last weekend’s 1-0 major semi-final defeat at the hands of Bulli. 

"It's a tough loss for any team to lose their captain, but particularly for us with a player like Alvin," McGuire said.

"He goes out there every week and people are trying to get one over on him. He cops some stick but Alvin is one of those guys who is the ultimate professional.

"He is always doing the extra sessions. He does his recovery right. 

"It is a tough way for him to finish the season and some people are saying he might not be back. He is one to prove people wrong."

Like Ceccoli, Port have been a team to prove people wrong throughout the final series. After finishing fifth, the Zebras have won back-to-back elimination finals over Tarrawanna and Wollongong Olympic to move within touching distance of the decider. 

"In a way they are a bit like Bulli, because they find a way to stay in the contest," McGuire said.

"They have a lot of quality up front so I am expecting a tough 90 maybe 120 minute battle.  They are where they are because they play good football. They are very well coached and have obviously proven this year that they can beat us. At their best they are a very tough team to beat.”

The winner will face Bulli in the grand final.

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