WEST Griffith SC’s under 18s will head into Sunday’s Football NSW Champion of Champions semi-final with “nothing to lose” and everything to gain.
A full-strength Magpies outfit will face Manly-Warringah powerhouse Wakehurst in Sydney for a spot in the prestigious cup competition’s grand final.
On the back of a stunning year in the GDFA, Wests were tipped to spring a few upsets in the Champion of Champions but have passed perhaps even their own expectations in getting so far.
Coach Frank Portolesi, however, is philosophical about his side’s chances this weekend as it heads on its third road trip in less than a month.
“I think whatever the result is, we’ve achieved something already. There’s nothing to be disappointed about,” he said.
“Good teams are going to be knocked out at this stage and hopefully that’s not us, but if it is, everyone will be pretty proud of what these boys have done.
“They’re all in really high spirits, all looking forward to it.
“The boys pretty well know what they have to do and the experience of the last couple of teams they’ve played against, they know what is to come.
“There will be no surprises. They’re in for a hard game. But we’re in a situation where we’ve got nothing to lose.”
A number of Wests stars begin HSC exams on Monday but have committed to playing and, with the return of Karim Moursi and Jacob Seers from representative duty, will ensure Portolesi has a full complement to pick from.
The side continued training through the long weekend, holding a mid-afternoon session on Sunday to help the players acclimatise to the expected hot conditions for the Wakehurst clash.
Portolesi was critical of the travel demands placed on country teams in the Champion of Champions but said his team was treating it as a learning experience.
“The travel aspect is big, but in saying that, I guess they went into this knowing that you’re going to get one home game and then if you want to keep on, you’ve got to travel,” he said.
“But I think the boys are loving the idea of seeing new things and playing different teams.
“It’s a bit disappointing with the scheduling of the game at 2pm on Sunday afternoon at the furtherest point away for us, but there’s not much we can do.”
Portolesi knows little about Wakehurst, who went deep into the State Cup this season, but backs Wests’ strong passing game and resilience in defence to give them every chance of victory.
“They came through the last couple without conceding a goal so that’ll be the focus – to try and keep the other team out for as long as possible,” he said. “As far as I know the pitch they’ll play on this week is supposed to be a really quality pitch and this’ll suit their game, keeping the ball on the ground and so on.”