THEY’VE taken a lot of hark knocks along the way but UNE Barbarians sit on the cusp of an historic premiership today.
The script couldn’t have been written a lot better.
Not only are they making their first grand final appearance and aiming to win their first title but they’ll have to beat the defending champions to do it, and a side they have strong links to.
Around half of the side taking the field have worn St Albert’s colours.
Even coach Dan Dooner coached Albies – and to a premiership.
That was back in 2007.
But Dooner knows how fickle grand finals can be. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done through the season, as was the case for him and Albies in 2008.
“I think we were undefeated that year,” Dooner said.
He has been reminding his players about that.
“As I said to the guys this week, ‘don’t think we’re going to win’,” he said.
“It’s grand final football. It’s got nothing to do with the season.”
“It’s a totally different game and Albies are coming in in good form.”
They are wary of the students, knowing what they are capable of.
“They’ve found their structure now and they will be very difficult to beat,” Dooner said.
Robb found that out last week.
“Albies countered well at the breakdown,” he said.
“We need to be very good at the breakdown.”
“And we need to play with the structure we play with and have got to be very good with our one-on-one defence.
“Albies are very dangerous in the backs.”
They have dropped only the one game this season and have played some great football.
But Dooner believes they’ve still got more in them.
“We still haven’t played that 80 minutes of football,” he said.
“It’d be lovely to see 80 minutes of football played by us, which you need to do in a grand final.”
He said they’ve probably played about 60 minutes.
“The win against Robb was basically 40 minutes in the second half,” he said.
They had to fight hard for it and it probably was a bit of a wake-up call for them.
“The good thing for us was we turned it around in the second half and won the second half, which was great for us mentally,” Dooner said.
They have had Albies’ measure all season, the key to which has been putting them on the back foot.
“We’ve always been on the front foot and put pressure on them in the forwards,” Dooner said.
“A lot of the games we’ve had the majority of the ball.”
“We just need to get on the front foot from the start.”
It will be a big day for the club regardless, with third grade also reaching the grand final.
They are the only club to have two grades qualify.