Eagles Set To Join Greats

Illawarra Mercury

Saturday September 8, 2007

By TIM KEEBLE

ALBION Park-Oak Flats are primed to capture back-to-back Group Seven premierships in tomorrow's grand final against Berry-Shoalhaven Heads at Ron Costello Oval.

The Eagles are unbeaten in 2007 and in a position to leave indelible footprints as one of Group Seven's all-time great teams. If it wasn't for an upset loss at the hands of Milton-Ulladulla in 2005's premiership decider, they would be gunning for a hat-trick of titles.

Albion Park's dominance stretches beyond this season. They lost only one game last year and just three over the past three seasons. The Eagles are aware of what's at stake but have taken a business-as-usual approach to tomorrow's big day.

"We realised earlier in the year that we had to raise the bar and that's exactly what we did. We've continued to raise the bar throughout the second round and Sunday is no different," Albion Park co-captain Jade Lucas said.

"If we don't get the so-called two points on Sunday, what we've achieved this season won't mean anything really, because people only remember which team wins.

"Not many teams get the opportunity to go through undefeated and win a grand final. If we can win on Sunday, it'll be an achievement we can all look back on in years to come."

Only Berry's staunchest followers give them any chance of beating the minor premiers. The Magpies have come from a play-off for fifth spot and will complete mission impossible if they knock over the Park.

While the Eagles have been the most successful club in the competition over the past 10 years, Berry are seeking their first premiership in 40 years.

"We're delighted to be there and because we've come all the way through the finals we're not feeling any pressure," Berry captain-coach Trent Burns said.

"We haven't played our grand final yet. We still don't think we've put a solid 80-minute effort together in the finals, and hopefully that's what we'll do on Sunday. Anything can happen in a grand final."

The Magpies hope to have Lloyd Williamson and Jono McCormack back from injury for the match, while the Eagles have welcomed back Steve Butfield from suspension.

"You have to give Berry credit for getting this far and they've got our full respect," Lucas said.

"We've got a few blokes who might be playing their last game and it'd be good to give them the right send-off.

"It's been a long week waiting and we're looking forward to it. We're prepared for anything they throw at us.

"Defence has been our key in the second round and it'll be crucial on Sunday. We're a very close-knit team and we'll be striving for each other for 80 minutes."

Lucas said Berry game-breaker Paul Skewes will be a marked man, while Burns is coming off an outstanding performance in the final.

TOMORROW'S GROUP SEVEN GRAND FINAL DRAW AT RON COSTELLO OVAL

First grade: Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles v Berry-Shoalhaven Heads Magpies (2.45pm)

Reserve grade: Jamberoo Superoos v Warilla Gorillas (12.30pm)

Under 18: Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs v Shellharbour Sharks (11am)

Regan Cup: Mt Warrigal Kooris v Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles (9.30am)

Gates open at 8am

© 2007 Illawarra Mercury

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