Fasten your seat belts folks! Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs rugby league teams have a long and sturdy tradition of combat and this Sunday at Collegians Sporting Complex at Figtree, the 2018 under 18s have an opportunity to cement their names in the annals of local rugby league history.
Club president Mick Hampson has pleaded for the towns of Milton and Ulladulla and surrounding districts to get behind the team and make a big effort to attend the venue and give encouragement to the local side as they attempt to unseat undefeated minor-premiers Albion Park Oak-Flats Eagles. The match starts at 11.30am.
Since their first game under Peter Leffley 17 weeks ago, the Dogs have gamely stayed in the hunt thanks to their sturdy desire and improved application in every game, especially in the last month.
This was clearly seen last Saturday when the Dogs defeated Adam Hayburn’s gritty Berry-Shoalhaven Heads Magpies 22-16 at Kiama Showground in Antarctic conditions.
Magpie rake Sam Stevenson opened up the black and whites’ account with two tries in 10 minutes to give his side a strong 8-0 lead. Another converted try by Fletcher and a penalty by Blattner gave the Magpies a spirited 16-4 lead at the break.
Not to be denied, the finishing style of Bulldog winger Joel Blakeny prevailed when the classy string-bean winger went thundering over wide out after a classic Whitford despatch. Shortly after ace back-rower Ben Russell rattled the Magpies by charging over. Rollicking Bulldogs front-rower Lleyton Roach then bulldozed his way over in the 54th minute before dashing centre Liam Conlan made the most of a Whitford pass and sprinted into the south-western corner to close the scoring at 22-16.
The Eagles have won eight titles since 1953 whereas the Bulldogs have captured five titles since 2005. In the premiership proper this season, the Eagles have amassed 543 points in total with 94 points scored against the Dogs during their last three encounters – an average of 31 points per game.
However, statistics in the lead-up to rugby league grand finals mean nothing in the scheme of things. Coaches can employ all the fanciest of moves and strategies, yet, as former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.”
Peter Leffley knows from experience that the fittest team with the strongest legs will decide the outcome of the game. His squad of youngsters are now starting to stand up and after the Berry match last Saturday have belief in themselves. They are looking more like the competition’s rightful challenger for the title and good enough on the day to knock over the odds-on favourites.
Albion Park coach Jake Williams has the worry of trying to keeping his star-studded side focused after smashing the competition senseless throughout the season.
However, to flatten the Bulldogs and beat them four out of four in a grand final will be a tall order. Historically, the Doggies are best avoided in grand finals. Their record remains overall at 11 senior grand final appearances and eight wins.
The under 18s Milton-Ulladulla grand final squad includes Zane Gallagher, Pierre Maglis, Elijah Humble, Liam Conlon, Charlie Brophy, Cody Roach, Tarje Whitford (capt), Charlie Frendo, Oscar Fitzpatrick, Lleyton Roach, Ben Russell, Chris Baker, Lachlan Self, Boyd Bradshaw, Gavin Kingsley, Joshua Thistleton, Haydn Galea, Jack Reed, Connor Tytherliegh and Joel Blackney along with coaching staff Matty Benjamin, Garry Warburton, Paul Love, Jason Millard, Colin Slater, Warren Kingsley and the loveable Glen Laws.
In other results, Shellharbour Sharks will have to deal again with Kiama Knights in this weekend’s first grade grand final at 4pm while Kiama Knights will face Albion Park in the reserve grade clash as the Knights attempt to win their 13th reserve grade title since 1919, starting at 2.20pm.
The third grade grand final match starts at 9.50am between Mt Warrigal Kooris and Diamond Mick Blattner’s Wreck Bay team which should be a cracking encounter. The local Doggies face undefeated Albion Park Eagles in the under 18s decider while WWT Division One team play Jamberoo. WWT Division Two teams Shellharbour and Albion Park vie for their maiden honours in this competition.