Blues bring pride to final against favourites

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2014
Sam Brierly
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
FINAL COUNTDOWN: Marist's Sam Brierly on the charge as Collegiate's Cole Roughan, left, and Cory McIntosh go in for the tackle during the division two club rugby semifinal on Saturday.

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Blues coach Simon Frisby and manager Shanon Townson are hoping history repeats itself as their men prepare to halt the Marist juggernaut in the PGG Wrightson division two final at Rugby Park on Saturday.

Four years ago Marist looked virtually unbeatable in the equivalent premier development final but the Blues rocked the pundits with an upset.

A shrewd analyst, Frisby tossed an ominous warning Marist's way when he said complacency was always a risk when a team were on top, but not when they were getting to the top.

"Marist was expected to beat us four years ago but Blues rolled them. Marist is again favourites but will history repeat itself? I would like to think so," Frisby said.

Blues are a "form horse", so to speak, after a gradual climb to the brink of supremacy, peaking and poised for a final call.

"I have plenty of good mates at Marist. They won't mind me saying that I think we can give them a shake on Saturday," Frisby said.

It is a case of mate against mate as Frisby and close Marist friend and rival coach Nathan Burgess square off in Saturday's showdown.

Their friendship dates back to when they played in the Town under-21 ranks "quite a few years ago, " Burgess said.

He and Frisby also worked together at Sheet Metalcraft in the city. Burgess also officiated as master of ceremonies at Frisby's wedding in March.

For the time being, Townson and Frisby justifiably take much out of the Blues having achieved so much after a humble start - they lost their first game, without a lead-up training run, to Pirates Old Boys.

"We are proud of where our guys have got to. To come to where they have has been massive. They now play for each other with plenty of heart," Frisby said.

"You can't deny how much this means to men like Michael Townson, Ben Muir, Daniel Clarke, Heath Kevern and the like who are all steeped in Blues traditions. Michael Townson started playing for Blues when 15 and he is now 28."

Coach Frisby is part of the Blues furniture, playing 13 years for the seniors. Townson started with the club as a wide-eyed five-year-old and retired from playing at 21 due to injuries. He coached the Blues Division Two team last year and is in his first year as manager.

Townson and Frisby acknowledge that Marist have beaten Blues twice already this season but all might see a more formidable Blues unit on Saturday.

Manager Townson observed: "There is a special culture within Blues. Our division two team is performing well because it is in a great environment whereby players are good mates both on the field and well away from it." He says Blues were close to full strength for Saturday.

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Marist coach Burgess said he and his players had surpassed their expectations by making the final.

Initially, the aim was to build a team this season, but success had bred more success.

"We have been fortunate to have a few men who have played a lot of footie on board to guide a few up-and-comers who are assets to the club. Good numbers in premier and division two augurs well overall for the future."

Marist supporters seemed happy with the two senior teams making the finals and that meant much to Burgess.

"We're not far away from full strength for Saturday. Continuing success has generated unity. The men are forever keen to do it for themselves with a resultant fine team spirit," Burgess said.

"Our pack has held its own with all. If it can again provide a platform and front-foot ball, then our captain and pivot Jeremy Boyle, who has stood out over the last month, will again direct play effectively."

Marist's clout, pace and ability to get men into space had impressed many.

"We try to play attractive rugby that our men enjoy. Our team spirit has been built by guys of the past who have stuck with the ship to reinforce the up-and-comers."

- The Southland Times

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