DARLINGTON Point-Coleambally has been served with a dose of cold, hard reality by caretaker under 16s coach Ray Schaefer, and his message is understandably pointed.
“Nobody remembers who the minor premiers are – it’s who wins the grand final that really matters,” he said.
The Roosters could do with a reminder as they find themselves in nearly an identical situation to last season, when the side went through the entire season undefeated – only to fall on grand final day.
Their opportunity for redemption awaits on Sunday against Leeton, and Schaefer is hopeful the players will take heed of his remarks.
“I wasn’t part of the club last year but we have a couple of players left from that side and they know how much it hurt,” he said.
“The regular season means nothing. I keep telling them it’s how your attitude and performance is on the day.
“It’s the last game of the year and they’ve just got to give it their all.”
DPC is coming off relatively shaky form by their standards – they were again irrepressible in the minor round, going through undefeated, but lost 20-18 to Leeton in the major semi-final.
However, Schaefer believes that patchiness was the direct result of an irregular finish to the season – the Roosters thrashed West Wyalong 68-4 in the penultimate round, had the bye in the last and subsequently went into the final with a lack of match fitness.
The thrilling golden point victory over Yenda last weekend did them a world of good, he said.
“It was disappointing to lose before that but hopefully it’s a bit of a godsend,” he said.
“It was shaky but it was good for us –exactly the kind of game we needed.”
But Schaefer, who is filling in for Graham Carroll as coach, is also keen to embrace the underdog tag, saying the pressure should all be on Leeton, who enjoyed the week off after their two-point win over the Roosters.
“I’d say they’d be feeling good and they should be the favourites. Their confidence would be sky high at the moment,” he said.
“They’re a very good team but we’ve been able to have two good wins over them - they weren’t comfortable, they were tough.
“They’ve got a big forward pack which goes really well and that’s where they beat us in that semi.
“I’ve been trying to rev our boys up as the underdogs – that’s how I won a lot of my premierships.”
Schaefer said he was “very pleased” to have been able to temporarily take over from Carroll and oversee an extremely talented team, which includes Group 20 best and fairest Blake Carroll, 14-year-old sensation Josh Fattore, pacy fullback Luke Hogan and dangerous forward Lucas Brain.
Schaefer’s son Blake will also line up for DPC – but only after his Under 17s Australian Country Tour basketball trials in Gosford on Saturday. He will leave the camp one day early to return to Griffith for the grand final.