Raiders seek first title in five seasons
RUGBY UNION: Proserpine-Whitsunday are chasing their first Mackay Rugby Union A-grade premiership title in five years tomorrow.
The Raiders face City in a blockbuster grand final at BB Print Stadium from 3.30pm.
Rested and refreshed after edging out City 33-29 in the second semi-final on September 1, Proserpine-Whitsunday will go into the decider near full strength.
Raiders coach Andre Houston said the week off was a welcome one as his side looks to lift the crown for the first time since 2013.
"We've had a good build-up,” Houston said.
"The week off allowed the boys to get over the bumps and bruises from the City clash and the mood at training has been great.
"We've earned the opportunity to be in the grand final and I know every player is looking forward to the game.
"There's a NRC game between Queensland Country and Fijian Drua before our game, they're the curtain-raisers to us, so it's going to be a big occasion.”
If previous encounters between the combatants are any guide, spectators will be treated to a great contest.
In 2018 they have met four times with the honours split two apiece after Proserpine-Whitsunday's four-point triumph 12 days ago.
Houston said City, who qualified for the big one after knocking out defending premiers Kuttabul by two points, would be a worthy adversary.
"City will try to beat us in the forwards, that is where their strength lies,” he said.
"Early in the year they beat us down there and we had a good win here, but the last couple of matches we've played were quite close.”
The Raiders will field some survivors of that 2013 win, although there is a fresh new brigade of players looking to carve out their own slice of club history, including young guns such as Malachi Lane and Sam Cornish.
Playmakers Jarryd Tanimu, Victor Carrat and Taku Hall have enjoyed fine seasons, while the Proserpine-Whitsunday forward pack contains strength and experience in spades.
The inspirational Cam Meurant leads from the front, prop Lorcan Carey, hooker Chad Stockings and openside flanker John Mitchell never shirk the task.
The influence of playing-coach Houston will also be important.
A well-travelled footballer who has played and coached in Sydney, Melbourne and on the Gold Coast, the New Zealand export has made a magnificent impression in his first year at the helm of the Raiders.
"This time last year I was sailing the islands of Croatia,” he said.
"Work brought us (Houston and partner Karla O'Donnell) to the Whitsundays and I've enjoyed being at the Raiders because it's a great club.
"Even though it is a bit of a transient town, it's great to have that real core of local boys in the team.”
A supporters bus has been organised to ensure plenty of backing for the green machine and will make three stops on the way to Mackay.