There won?t be much pressure on Bossy Liverpool when they travel down the road to meet minor premiers Bonnyrigg White Eagles in this Saturday night?s blockbuster preliminary final at the Sports Club (7.30pm kick-off). With everything, including history and form, pointing towards a comfortable Bonnyrigg victory, Mile Todorovksi?s men from Moorebank are in prime position to relax and throw caution to the wind.
Bonnyrigg, on the other hand, will be under the pump in trying to meet the lofty expectations of their fanatical supporters, as well as those of a club trying to force their way back into Premier League next year. Coach Blagoja Kulevski didn?t show any stress in his post-match address following last Saturday?s shock 1-0 semi-final loss to Parramatta (their first defeat at the Sports Club in 18 months), but, underneath, it might be a different story.
Liverpool certainly faces an uphill battle. They are yet to beat their cross-town rivals in five Super League tries, and have only managed to score once in the process. A dour 0-0 draw in their first meeting in 2006 was followed by 4-1 and 1-0 White Eagles victories last year, before Bonnyrigg again inched past Bossy 1-0 in their round-10 encounter at the Sports Club in May. In that match, Giovanni Leuzzi scored late to maintain Bonnyrigg?s unbeaten run.
Todorovski?s men did show some mettle in forcing another 0-0 draw with Kulevski?s charges in a round-21 clash at Moorebank last month. The stalemate clinched the minor premiership for Bonnyrigg, but it also meant that the relentless White Eagles attack had only managed two goals against Liverpool in three matches. This is enough to show that there?s not as much between the two teams as the points ladder, and history, would indicate.
Liverpool has some form on the board following their impressive 3-1 win to bundle Rockdale out of this year?s finals race, and Suns coach Michael Grbevski gave Bossy his nod of approval. ?If they play like they did against us, then Liverpool has every chance of winning the title,? he said after the game. But Grbevski also pointed out that Bossy would have to beat two quality sides, in Bonnyrigg and Parramatta, to lift the Super League trophy.
Making things even tougher this weekend, Liverpool will be without the services of league leading scorer Alex Canak, who has an average of more than one goal scored in every game he has made it onto the field for. Canak was suspended after picking up a string of yellow cards over the past month, and his free-flowing game will be sorely missed by Bossy, particularly in what should turn out to be an open spectacle against the White Eagles.
But it?s very hard to look past Bonnyrigg. They didn?t fluke last year?s grand final, and they weren?t lucky to be this year?s minor premiers. They earned both titles through hard work, consistency and talent. Sure, the White Eagles operate off a huge budget, but the players still have to perform, and they will be motivated from last week?s shock loss to Parramatta and the desire to play in Premier League next season. Both incentives will be hard to dismiss.
The preliminary final winner between Liverpool and Bonnyrigg will go on to play PCYC Parramatta Eagles in the big NSW Super League grand final day at Gabbie Stadium on Sunday, September 28 (first grade kick-off at 3pm). In the under-20s finals race, minor premiers Northern Tigers await the winner of the Rockdale versus Central Coast preliminary final being played at Bonnyrigg Sports Club this Saturday evening (5pm kick-off).
-By Daniel De Nardi