Newcastle are just one game away from grand final glory at ANZ Stadium, and Rick Stone has complete faith the heroes of the narrow preliminary final victory against the Sharks last weekend can get the job done on Saturday evening.
The CRL helmsman has named the same 18-player squad for the crunch-time decider against the Mounties, with winger Chantelle Graham returned to the extended bench in favour of Skye McKenzie in the mandatory team list announced on Tuesday.
McKenzie made way for Graham on the flank outside Bobbi Law against Cronulla last weekend, with returning Jillaroos star Simone Smith playing an impact role off the bench for the match. It’s likely Stone will aim to utilise this tactic again.
The star-studded Newcastle squad boasts a considerable number of stars, including trio Melanie Howard, Isabelle Kelly, and Caitlan Johnston who Blues coach Patmore tipped to break open the game at ANZ Stadium.
The team is more than just the individual talent Stone’s side boasts across the park. According to club captain Bec Young, the team will hit their next level in the final game of the season as they draw on their team connection.
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“We’ve pushed each other to be better people on and off the field, and I’m really proud to be able to lead these girls out on Saturday,” Young told CRL Media in the build-up to the “final showdown” this weekend.
“I’m really proud of each and every one of them and we’ve made a lot of sacrifices. The whole team works for each other, and I just feel like we’ve got that team connection. We’re going to do anything for the person next to us.
“This year especially we’ve had to go to that next level, especially because of having someone like Rick Stone as a coach. We’ve got people travelling, like Taylah [Predebon] coming from Gloucester, Kylie [Hilder] coming down and Issy [Kelly] and Claire [Reed] coming up for every single session.”
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Young last played in a league grand final in 2017, when the Novocastrian squad was still known as North Newcastle. The CRL captain revealed she brought up the memories of that decider at Leichardt Oval this week to motivate the team.
“We spoke a bit at training about prior grand finals and what we remember about those finals, just to help some of the girls in the room preparation wise,” said Young.
“Remembering what that feels like to either win or lose and attach the emotion to that game and know how important it is to be able to play at ANZ in front of all our family and friends. It’s something you don’t get very often in a lifetime.”
New South Wales Rugby League have confirmed the Newcastle vs Mounties grand final will be live-streamed on NSWRL.com.au from 5pm on Saturday, August 10.
TEAM LIST: 1. Claire Reed 2. Skye Pullman 3. Bobbi Law 4. Isabelle Kelly 5. Alicia Martin 6. Olivia Higgins 7. Melanie Howard 8. Rebecca Young 9. Kylie Hilder 10. Emma Young 11. Holli Wheeler 12.Hannah Southwell 13. Sophie Buller 14. Tazmyne Luschwitz 16. Chantelle Graham 17. Tayla Predebon 24. Caitlan Johnston 20. Simone Smith; Coach: Rick Stone.