Group 20 rugby league
THE Yenda Blueheelers will rely on inside information as coach Roy Romeo plots the downfall of two former stars in Sunday’s Group 20 preliminary final.
Tireless hooker Andrew Lavaka and damaging winger Kolo Lomu will be in the firing line on Sunday when Leeton and Yenda fight for the right to take on TLU in next weekend’s grand final in Griffith.
After switching to the Greens in the off-season alongside former Black and Whites prop Chris Latu, the Group 20 representatives have served as vital cogs in the club’s stunning march to the minor premiership.
But with Leeton on the ropes after an indifferent run home and a first-up finals loss, Romeo senses the opportunity is ripe for the Blueheelers to book their grand final spot.
He told The Area News he knows exactly how each player operates – and that curtailing their influence at Shark Park on Sunday will be half the battle.
“We’ve done a bit of homework on them,” Romeo said.
“Hopefully we can take it out on the paddock and nullify their big gamebreakers – that’ll go a long way towards winning the game. We’ve just got to limit their ball and keep our defence on, as it has been for the last month.
“If we allow them any space, we’re in trouble – half a gap and they’re gone.”
Lomu leads the Group 20 tryscorers list with 24 in 13 games – one more than his nearest rival Daniel Hyde, who has played in three more matches.
Lavaka has also done his fair share of scoreboard damage with 13 tries in 15 games, but he has also served as the starting point for many Leeton attacks.
Romeo also has Greens pack leaders Latu and Shane Roden in his sights.
“It’s no secret Latu and Roden are their go-forward men,” he said.
But Leeton captain-coach Willie McDonald has drawn up plans of his own as his side looks to recover from the shock loss to TLU last weekend.
McDonald said Yenda’s big boppers – props Ben Vitucci and Tom Sellars, lock Kodie Charles and second-rowers Tom Warner and Anfo Leao-Seve – will need to be kept in check.
“They’re big boys – not huge, but together they’re a big pack,” he said.
“They seem to get a roll on and it’s hard to stop when they do.
“Give their halves too much time and their big boys will cause havoc.”
The Kiwi was scathing of Leeton’s performance in the 36-32 defeat to Lakes, saying his side would have lost to anyone in the group given their dreadful completion rate.
“We completed five of 13 sets in the first half – and 13’s not enough as it is,” he said.
“That’s not good enough for first grade footy.
“We didn’t respect the ball enough. It was a concern, but nothing to panic about.
“There’s nothing we need to change – our boys just weren’t quite switched on.
“Maybe we took Lakes lightly, I’m not sure – but we’ve got to get back on track or we’re out of the comp.”
Leeton also has a couple of injury concerns to contend with.
Josh Russell (hamstring) is out for the season while Warren Lloyd (ankle) will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness after injuring himself in the final minutes of the TLU game.
“We’ve just got to turn up to play. If we don’t we’ll be very disappointed,” McDonald said.
On the other hand, Yenda is fully fit, firing on all cylinders and is peaking at the right time of the year, according to Romeo.
“Momentum’s hard to stop,” he said.
“Our whole side’s in good touch. I can’t single anyone out because everyone’s doing their job.”