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REAL NRL: Williams confident Roos have jump on rivals

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The “Battle of the Central Coast” will be fought on neutral territory when the Wyong Roos and The Entrance Tigers lock horns in this weekend’s Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) elimination final.

The two combatants secured fourth and fifth respectively on the table, setting the scene for a classic encounter at Charlestown’s St John Park on Sunday 13 August.

The decision to play the match “away” is primarily due to the fact neither club fields all three grades at the moment, with the under-19s joining the fold in 2024.

Wyong Roos captain-coach Mitch Williams. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

While it isn’t an ideal scenario, inspirational Wyong captain-coach Mitch Williams admitted the opposition, not the venue, was the Roos’ priority.

“We’re both in the same position,” he said.

“It’s not like they’re getting any advantage either.

“Although it would have been nice to get a home semi, especially after finishing fourth.

“Imagine this showdown on the Central Coast, they’d be hanging off the rafters and I think it would’ve been good for the game down there.

“But, it is what it is.

“We know that we’re going to be in Newcastle for the semis now.

“So, it’s just that mindset of ‘this is what we’re doing’ and ‘this is the challenge that we’re facing’.”

Mitch Williams shoots out from dummy half. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Wyong began the season with four consecutive victories and rebounded from a mini-slump to finish just outside the top three.

“If you asked me at the start of the year, making the finals was obviously the first goal,” Williams said.

“I guess we had two chances to snare top three, however a couple of disappointing performances at the back cruelled that.

“I’ll admit, it’s a missed opportunity.

“However, we’re here now and we give ourselves a chance.

“It will take one month of good footy to get us there on grand final day.

“I know it’s a cliche, but everything is done now.

“There are five teams that can win it [premiership]… and we are one of them.

“That’s a position we want to be in.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a longer pathway for us, finishing that fourth and fifth elimination semi, but that’s what we need to do.”

Mitch Williams. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Williams, who’s contracted for the role again in 2024, has total confidence in his chargers.

“At our best, we’ve got the belief that we can knock anyone off,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“But, to be honest, it starts with The Entrance on Sunday.

“They’ve beaten us once and we’ve beaten them once.

“However, we understand that we want to get that momentum.

“You want to get that win and get on that roll because the next week we’ll be playing someone who’s lost.

“That’s the plan… bank a victory on the weekend, grab some momentum and build it into the semis.”

It means accounting for the Tigers, who’ve been buoyed by a club backflip to re-sign coaches Jamy Forbes and Ben O’Connell.

“We’re aware it’ll be tough,” Williams said.

“We’ve already played them twice this year, but the second time was round five.

“So, a lot has changed since then for both teams.

“They’ve had some injuries to key halves… they’ve fully changed their style of play up.

“Their middles are definitely still strong; I think they’re doing a great job for them.

“Plus, they’ve got some outside backs, who are starting their sets off really well.

“Our forwards know that their middles got over us the last time.

“So, we’re going to try and fix that challenge and stand up and be a bit stronger through that middle bit.

“I’m quietly confident we’ll fight another day.

“We want to get through this weekend.

“But, we know how hard it’s going to be… (Jamy) Forbes is going to have the boys extremely well-prepared.

“I thought they played really well against Maitland at the weekend.

“It’s a huge challenge for us.

“However, like I said, I think the winner of this game can take a lot of momentum into the next week… and we want it to be us.”

Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League

Denton Engineering Cup

Round 18 results:

  • Lakes United Seagulls d Kurri Kurri Bulldogs 64-12
  • Western Suburbs Rosellas d Macquarie Scorpions 34-18
  • South Newcastle Lions d Northern Hawks 36-6
  • Maitland Pickers d The Entrance Tigers 12-7
  • Cessnock Goannas d Central Newcastle Butcher Boys 28-22
  • Bye: Wyong Roos

2023 play-off draw:

Saturday 12 August – Qualifying Finals

Venue: Townson Oval, Merewether

  • Under-19s: 10.45am – Western Suburbs Rosellas v South Newcastle Lions
  • Reserve grade: 12.15pm – Western Suburbs Rosellas v South Newcastle Lions
  • First grade: 2pm – South Newcastle Lions v Cessnock Goannas

Sunday 13 August – Elimination Finals

Venue: St John Oval, Charlestown

  • Under-19s: 10.45am – Maitland Pickers v Kurri Kurri Bulldogs
  • Reserve grade: 12.15pm – Cessnock Goannas v Lakes United Seagulls
  • First grade: 2pm – Wyong Roos v The Entrance Tigers

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