Second grade clubs ready for promotion battle
After 18 rounds of regular season action, the Easterns Raptors, Sunbury Tigers, Pakenham Eels and Sunshine Cowboys will now fight it out for the Men’s Second Grade Premiership, as well as promotion to the first grade competition next season.
With the Eastern Raptors finishing minor premiers, they’ll take on the second placed Sunbury Tigers for a spot straight into the grand final while Pakenham and Sunshine will battle it out in an elimination final.
Ahead of their qualifying clash this afternoon, Eastern Raptors co-captain Zeph Sao said he hopes his side can maintain the high standards they’ve already set this season.
“Proud would be understatement for what we’ve achieved this season, the boys are in a good headspace coming into finals so it’s a good way to come out of two Covid interrupted years,” Sao said.
“We’ve really set the bar high, we’re minor premiers for a reason so we need to try and keep our composure and keep it simple really.”
As for their intentions to go all the way this year, Sao said the Raptors are a motivated group that are all working together towards a common goal.
“A lot of boys came in this year with the intention to better the game, so if we could make that step up to first grade then that would be great.”
Meanwhile, Sunbury Tigers captain Alti Porter said he’s proud of what the Tigers have achieved this season considering they only entered the competition in Round 4.
“Yeah definitely proud of the team as it’s been a long time for the club so it’s great we’ve even made it this far, now we get a chance to play finals footy,” Porter said.
“There is a lot of young boys coming through here so we’re definitely coming in confident.”
“It’s all about everyone being there for each other come finals and we really want to get a first grade team so hopefully this is a step for us to get there,” he said.
In the elimination final, it’s a must win clash for both the Cowboys and the Eels should they want to continue their 2022 campaign.
Eels captain Alan Leilua said he expects a tough game against a gritty Cowboys side but hopes the bonds his side have made over the year will help get them over the line.
“There’s a lot of new faces here this year so we tried to be as welcoming as possible as we really are just one big family here at Pakenham," Leilua said.
"The vibes have been great and we’ve got some great feedback from all the families."
“It would mean a lot to qualify for first grade as we’ve been a part of this competition for a few years now and this year is really good chance to make that step up.”
“When we've played Sunshine before they’ve always brought it to us and always given us a hard game, so I’m sure this weekend will be the same.”
Finishing fourth on the ladder this season, Cowboys half Michael Hurinui said while it’ll be a challenge against some quality opposition, his side are still setting their sights on first grade qualification.
“I am optimistic about tomorrow night as it’s a new start but Pakenham have played really well against us this year and with a home ground advantage it’s going to be tough,” Hurinui said.
“At the start of the year I really wanted to win the second grade comp as I would love to represent the club with a first grade side, especially for our Under 18’s coming through but in saying that, we will give 150% tomorrow night as it’s still a target of mine.”
“We’ll be giving it a red-hot crack as I’d love to be in first grade next year.”