WALCHA centre Simon Newton is no stranger to finals football but he hasn’t often been considered Inverell’s enemy.
But he will be tomorrow, with the Rams taking on the Highlanders for the right to host the grand final.
One of the Highlanders’ favourite sons, Newton swapped the green and gold for the red and white of Walcha this season following a work opportunity opening up and has become an integral part of the Rams’ backline.
He admitted it would be a bit strange not running out with Inverell as he has in so many finals, but is focused on helping the Rams get over the line.
“To be honest it does feel a bit strange but I did it okay last time I went up there,” he said.
The former Country centre has enjoyed the season with the Rams and no doubt will enjoy it even more if they can grab the silverware.
He has tasted premiership success before and is well-versed on what it takes to win finals, with this about his fifth finals series.
“Going into finals, the last 18 rounds prove nothing,” Newton said.
It’s a completely new competition.
What the rounds do point to though is that it’s going to be tight.
“The first two games have been anyone’s game up until the bell,” he said.
Only one point separated them in the first round after he kicked a late penalty, and only a converted try in the second round.
The Highlanders took the honours on that occasion.
The Rams can take some confidence from that, but not too much.
They’ll have to improve a fair bit from that performance, Newton said, and have a big task to be in the contest with the Highlanders.
There’s no denying they’ve got the ability and talent to – it will come down to mental application.
“I think where we need to step up is playing for 80 minutes,” Newton said.
He knows that from experience. Sometimes it even takes more than 80 minutes.
“Last time we went to Inverell we switched off,” he said.
“That’s when they got a couple of tries on us.”
The Rams were up at half-time but couldn’t muster a point in the second half.
“About 60 is the best we’ve played,” Newton said.
He said the Highlanders were a threat 1 to15.
“You can’t single out anyone. We’ve got to beat them right across the paddock,” he said.
Every one of them has to play better than his opposite.
Neither side made the finals last season and, after missing out last year, Newton is excited about playing finals again.
“I’m very keen to get back into it,” he said.
“The best football you play in country rugby is finals.”