Grand Final XV
The 2012 AMNRL championship will feature a repeat of the 2011 matchup between the New York Knights and the Connecticut Wildcats.
The Knights won the 2011 Championship with a 38-4 victory but this year they’ll face a Wildcats team with a ton of momentum, as they surged into their 7th Grand Final appearance.
Having not lost a match since round two of the regular season, the knights have a number of big match players who could loom as potential game breakers for the defending champions. Among them are Toddy Fisher and Andrew Moody. Fisher is the leading point scorer for the competition while Moody is third overall for try scorers.
The Wildcats also have a number of players primed for big time playoff matches. Leading from the front is the AMNRL’s top try scorer Michael Goward. The Wildcats playmaker has been in scintillating form this season and will play a key role in Saturday’s matchup.
As we countdown to the Championship decider, WeAreRugby caught up with New York Knights Coach Guillaume Cieutat and Wildcats Player/Coach Curtis Cunz, as they prepare for their biggest match of the season.
WAR - What does your team need to do to win the GF?
Cieutat- We try to have a pretty simple approach to this GF. First, we don't consider ourselves as favorites and we expect a tough encounter. There is no such thing as defending premiers for us. We have a lot of respect for the Wildcats because they caused us a lot of trouble across the park every time we played against them during the regular season. They are definitely the team with momentum at the moment with their last win against the Bulls.
That being said, we're going to work very hard to impose our own rhythm to the game and consistently apply our brand of footy over 80mins. We're not building a special plan for this game, we want to stick with our footy DNA and just produce a solid performance. If we do that, we are confident we can ask the Cats some tough questions.
Cunz- We almost beat the Knights in our first clash and in our second match we killed ourselves with mistakes and not taking advantage of theirs. By focusing on a much tighter defense and working them to their backs ultimately slowing down the play of the ball we will give ourselves the chance to win. Offensively scoring points have never been a problem and we can score with the best of them so completing our sets will be the fundamental goal.
WAR - Who are the players to look out for on your team?
Cieutat– Let I just say that the Knights are not about individuals, we're more about the team as a unit. We believe in our system and it's through the system that our players shine. To go beyond the list of our representative players, I'd like to mention a couple of our guys who tirelessly dig deep every week to set up the platform for our structure: Props Kirk Miller and Manny Cipriani, Lock James Carder, Back Rowers Calder Orr and Abe Cohen have all been tremendous performers this season. You simply don't win premierships without these kinds of guys.
Cunz - It’s no secret try scoring champ Michael Goward will have to be his usual self along with Matty Walsh on offense. I’ll be looking to set the tone early on defense and expect to have Salesi Tongamoa and Mike Schacter with me as well. I think the defense will have to win the game for us. This can't be a shootout.
WAR - What will you focus on at training this week? Is there anything different or special taking place?
Cieutat - From a training standpoint, this week is dedicated to execution on the field and clearing the few grey areas in our game.Off the field, we're just trying to enjoy the occasion and more importantly enjoy spending time together for one more week. Regardless of the outcome, a Grand Final is always a very special moment in a player's career.
Cunz - Training this week will consist of a lot of game time situations especially on transition defense. Slowing down their play of the ball by putting three in a tackle and holding them down on their backs.
*Saturday’s Grand Final will take place at Fairfield Ludlowe High School Football Stadium, Connecticut. Kickoff is at 3:30pm.