If anticipation was a unit of currency the Group 6 rugby league could be insured for more than Kim Kardashian’s arse right now.
“Imma let you finish, but this is the biggest grand final of all time”
In the most eagerly awaited clash in decades in Group 6, if not the entire CRL, the Camden Rams will meet arch rivals the Picton Magpies in a real life clash of the Titans at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday at 3:15pm.
This is a battle akin to Ali vs Frazier or Kenobi vs Vader in terms of sheer expectation.
Considering the seasons they’ve had it’s easy to see why this game has such a buzz surrounding it. I wrote a story here a couple weeks back, showing why these teams are, statistically, the two best in all of CRL.
Now, forget about the stats. Looking at these two squads, on paper alone, they would be at least competitive in any competition across rural NSW, not to mention the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup.
After getting the better of the Magpies by 38-30 to qualify for the Grand Final two weeks ago, it’s fair to say that Camden have form on their side. To counter that, Picton are a seasoned squad who’ve proven time and again that they lift on the big occasions.
The combatants have met on three occasions this season with Camden leading on that front 2-1. Back in May Picton handed the Rams an astonishing 52-0 drubbing, to have most punters tipping the black and whites would not be pushed by anyone on their way to three premierships in a row. To their credit however, Camden used that disappointment as a catalyst to not only sweep all other teams aside, but to get the better of their fierce rivals on their two subsequent meetings.
Opinions are closely divided amongst those in the know when quizzed on who will stand triumphant at the conclusion of this battle of the behemoths. I spoke with seven local coaches and Rugby League identities earlier, with four of them tipping Camden, but all predicting a tight and epic battle.
Moss Vale Dragons coach and co-coach of the Group 6 rep team, Robbie Payne was leaning towards the Rams. “Obviously it’s going to be a cracking game” Payne said. “I’ve just got a feeling that Camden are gonna get there. They’re fresh. And, with Alex Peters missing for Picton, that’s a big factor. If you look at the Grand Finals in the last two years, he’s changed the course of the games with his defence”.
Similarly, Payne’s co-coach of the rep team, Russell Lewis was putting his hard earned on the Rams. “Camden, I think, will have the edge on them” he declared. “They play a bit more direct, especially their front rowers. Weir and Cashmere run hard and straight. Then they’ve got two quality halves who can finish the game off for them.”
Mitch Brassington, captain-coach of The Oaks Tigers, fresh from winning the Group 6 coach of the year award last night with his brother Matt, was another who picked the boys in blue, red, and white. “I think Camden might just have them in the end. Picton are pretty big and Camdens quick guys might just get them home” he said, before adding “it wouldn’t shock me at all if Picton won though.”
Dane Wooden from the Appin Dogs didn’t see it that way however, alluding to the Magpies history of lifting when it counts: “Picton in a close one. I think they know how to perform on the big day.”
Journalist and commentator Curtis Woodward from the81stminute.com was another backing the Magpies: “Camden are just starting their dynasty, which should continue for the next five years, but Picton have done it together for the last couple of seasons and they should do it again tomorrow.”
Campbelltown City Kangaroos guru Alex Melville referred to the Camden sides experience at higher levels when nominating them as his tip. “Camden by 8” he declared. “They have an advantage in NRL & NSW Cup experience that will prove vital in the games pivotal moments. The pressure is all on Camden and the Borg brothers to deliver, though. Somehow Picton, going for three straight to emulate 85-87, are the underdogs. Just how they like it.”
Group 6 media manager and the man behind the Group 6 NRL Commentary Facebook page, Mike Shean had to be forcibly removed from the fence he was sitting on before eventually tipping the Magpies. “If I’ve got to put it on the line, I’m tipping Picton. They’ve got the experience. They’ve won the last two. But Camden are so in this. It might be one play from a Michael Lett or a Don Thompson from Picton, or a Borg or Browne from Camden that decides this in the end.”
Whatever the result, one thing is assured here. This will be a colossal battle of the ages. The earth will shake. The heavens will crumble. Campbelltown Stadium may well be annihilated from the tumult and turmoil. I believe Group 6 have enlisted the help of both Ronda Rousey and a shirtless Vladimir Putin on horseback for crowd control.
It is somewhat tragic that both of these sides will not be remembered for their astonishing success in 2015. The winner will, likely, go on to be hailed as the greatest side in Group 6 history. The loser will be shadowed in a veil of relative obscurity, remembered by only the keenest of rugby league tragics.
History can be brutal in that respect. Much like the action will be tomorrow.
Some interesting tidbits surrounding the teams and the big game:
– Picton 5/8 Donny Thompson was last night crowned Group 6 player of the year.
– Picton fullback and captain Michael Lett was the season highest try scorer with 27 from 12 games.
– Camden fullback Chris Browne easily topped the points scorers list with 336 points.
– Camden’s 17 year old Will Kerr was named the Rising Star for the Group and will play with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2016.
– Camden have a combined 172 games NRL experience between Dean Collis and Ray Cashmere alone (plus an additional 125 UK Super League games).
– Picton’s Michael Lett was named in the NSW Cup team of the year 3 years running from 2010 – 12.
– Camden’s Scott and Ryan Borg lost Grand Finals to Picton in 2013 & 14 while playing for the Mittagong Lions.
– Picton’s Jakiel Mariner played for NSW U20’s last year. You can catch the highlights here. He is also a talented musician. His band Fourtunate has more than 140,000 Facebook followers and featured on the 2011 series of ‘X-Factor’.
Tune in to C91.3FM for all of the news on the big game on Monday morning, and keep an eye on my Macarthur Rugby League Wrap Facebook page for the interviews and opinions that matter.
You can hear my interview with Picton coach Gary Dowse here:
You can hear my interview with Camden captain-coach Scott Borg here: