Back from the dead!

The Roost­ers stage an es­cape act Harry Hou­dini would’ve been proud of BY TOM SMITH

Rugby League Week - - Holden Cup -

IF YOU WERE BRAVE – OR crazy – enough to have a flut­ter on the Syd­ney Roost­ers when they went into the sheds 28-6 down in Sun­day’s Holden Cup grand fi­nal, your bank ac­count is now as healthy as Daly Cherry-Evans’.

The Chooks started the game friend­less un­der­dogs against red-hot mi­nor pre­miers Pen­rith and the first half didn’t de­vi­ate from the script, with the Pan­thers run­ning in five tries to one to put one hand on their third un­der-20s tro­phy in four years.

But the Roost­ers snatched it away in a stun­ning sec­ond half to claim their first ti­tle at this level, pinch­ing a 30-28 win a week af­ter eras­ing a 14-0 half­time deficit against St Ge­orge Illawarra in the pre­lim.

Hav­ing sur­vived four weeks of thrilling sudden-death footy with a cou­ple of Harry Hou­dini es­cape acts, the Tri­colours are of­fi­cially the come­back kids of the NYC.

“We wish we weren’t, we wish we started strong, but hey, we’ve got to make it dramatic,” smiles Johnny Tuiv­asa-Sheck, Roger’s lit­tle brother, who streaked 60m for the match­win­ning try with eight min­utes left.

“Oh man, the boys set it up beau­ti­ful for me and I just had to fin­ish it off.

“We never stopped be­liev­ing in the boys, es­pe­cially com­ing off that win last week, we def­i­nitely be­lieved that we had it. We knew Pen­rith were go­ing to bring it, so we just had to match them.

“It’s un­be­liev­able. It all comes from Bar­nesy [coach An­thony Barnes] and what he teaches us – not just to be young foot­ball play­ers but to be young men. And man, as you can see, it’s def­i­nitely worked out for us.”

Pen­rith dom­i­nated the first stanza by con­trol­ling 60 per cent of pos­ses­sion with a 95 per cent com­ple­tion rate, be­fore Roost­ers skip­per Nat Butcher sparked the re­vival by car­ry­ing four Pan­thers de­fend­ers over the stripe to score just two min­utes af­ter the oranges.

Butcher – the RLPA Holden Cup player of the year and Jack Gib­son Medal win­ner for a tire­less ef­fort at lock in the de­cider – is clear about what trig­gered the turn­around. “Bar­nesy yelling at us,” he laughs. “We did it the week be­fore, so we un­der­stood we’ve got the abil­ity to do it, we just had to find that en­ergy and that’s what we did. “It’s a great team . . . and I’m so proud to cap­tain them and to win like that.”

Crit­ics of­ten joke the Roost­ers’ list of lo­cal ju­niors is so skinny you could write their names on the back of a postage stamp but de­feat­ing footy’s big­gest ju­nior nurs­ery in the NYC de­cider speaks vol­umes for the club’s de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, even if the kids aren’t nec­es­sar­ily lo­cals.

Coach Barnes also led the nu­cleus of this side to the 2014 SG Ball un­der-18s

pre­mier­ship – co­in­ci­den­tally com­ing from be­hind to beat Pen­rith 34-28 in the grand fi­nal – and sticks up for his club’s ju­nior sys­tem.

“We’re get­ting them when they’re 16 and we’re putting hard yards into them – you talk about ju­niors, we’re still de­vel­op­ing these play­ers so I don’t think we get the rap that we should for that,” Barnes fires.

“Some of these boys have been in the sys­tem for three or four years, so it’s not an overnight thing. We don’t just go and buy them and then all of a sudden they turn into good foot­ballers – Peter O’Sul­li­van picks the best and we work from there.

“Ob­vi­ously, we are buy­ing those play­ers in or get­ting them into our sys­tem, but we still have a good sys­tem and we’re pro­duc­ing good foot­ballers.”

Butcher and two-try grand fi­nal hero Joseph Manu are the stand­out prospects among these young Chooks, while rare-as-hen’s-teeth East­ern Sub­urbs prod­uct Vic­tor Radley of the Clovelly Croc­o­diles also starred in the de­cider, mak­ing a string of surges from dummy-half af­ter an in­jury to reg­u­lar hooker Grant Garvey.

The Roost­ers have qual­i­fied for ev­ery NYC fi­nals se­ries since 2010 and NRL skip­per Jake Friend be­lieves these re­sults give the red-white-and­blue faith­ful plenty of heart af­ter a tough 2016.

“We went that way with the youth and we’ve got some good young guys in our top squad, then to see our young boys put on a per­for­mance like this and put in the sea­son they have, it puts us in good stead,” he says.

“A lot of these boys have all been to­gether for a while and they have been very suc­cess­ful, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty of them that make the next step and help the first-grade side get back to where we should be.

“It’s great for the fu­ture of our club and it’s awe­some for these boys.”

Roost­ers 30 (Joseph Manu 2, Nat Butcher, Si­tili Tu­pouniua, Johnny Tuiv­asa-Sheck tries; Jesse Marschke 5 goals) beat Pan­thers 28 (Chris­tian Crich­ton, Corey Wad­dell, Braidon Burns, Kaide El­lis, Wayde Egan tries; Dy­lan Ed­wards 4 goals)

‘We wish we started strong but hey, we’ve got to make it dramatic’ — Johnny Tuiv­asa-Sheck

RED-HOT CHOOKS The Roost­ers pro­duced one of the great grand fi­nal come­backs to win their first NYC pre­mier­ship. Left: Cap­tain Nat Butcher con­firmed why he’s con­sid­ered one of the best young prospects in the game by win­ning the Jack Gib­son Medal. Above right: Fly­ing winger Johnny Tuiv­asaSheck crosses for the match-win­ner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.