Melbourne’s Harlequin Rugby Club will go into Saturday’s Dewar Shield grand final against the Melbourne Unicorns on the edge of history, but it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Having won the past three titles, they could be the first club to win four-straight in 32 years, a sign of their recent dominance.
They will have to do it without half of the side that won last year’s final, including inspirational captain, Gus Hamilton after he broke his leg towards the end of the season.
Coach Pom Simona, a former Harlequin himself, said Hamilton’s absence was a major motivating factor heading into their title fight.
“He’s played juniors here, played Australian schools and he’s a local kid too,” he said.
“He’s what we consider our ideal Quins man - he’s a good person, loyal, always looking out for his teammates.
“He’s at every training session, even though he doesn’t have to be, on crutches, carrying water, doing whatever he can.”
Hamilton is one of a number of players missing through injury, while backs player-coach Leo Taliu has been suspended and Simona said the group would have all those players in their minds on Saturday afternoon.
“A lot of the players coming in look up to the guys that can’t be there and they’ll be playing for them,” he said.
Harlequin have had a week off after winning their major semi-final a fortnight ago and Simona said their success started off the field.
"No matter how talented you are, if you’re not a good person you’re probably not going to fit in here,” he said.
“Good people make good rugby players because you can rely on good people.
“In tough games when things are tight, you need people you can trust around you.”
A group of the Unicorns side played for University last year in their losing grand final and will be looking for redemption on Saturday, coach Tumai Edwards said.
There will be a little bit of spice to the rivalry with Simona and Edwards having played together in New Zealand.
Edwards said there hadn’t been much banter between the two ahead of the grand final, though.
“Actually haven’t heard from him this week, maybe that’s a tactic he wants to stay quiet,” he said.
“ We’ll definitely have a cold one after the game."
The Dewar Shield final between Harlequin and Melbourne kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, at Box Hill.
Dewar Shield grand final teams
Albert Tokahere, Mahe Vailanu, Angus Arundel, Steve Cummins, Murray Douglas, Zac Dixon, Sione Taufa, Simei Kolio, Lucky Mulipola, Lloyd Johansson, Ahmu Tuimalealiifano, Eli Vole, Oliva Sialau, Leo Owade, Rian Oliver. Reserves: Stan Ta'Ufo'Ou, Jack Hollingsworth, Vince Foluena, Ta Hosea, Mana Faraimo, Ant Van Zyl, Taylor Acheson, Majokah Schuster.
Davis Tui, Lindsay Gibson, Ata(Uiese) Manu, Freddie Austin, Craig Charters, Hughie Forbes, Ikapote Tupai, Tim Emery, Michael Snowden, Samuel Vaevae Christopher Ling, Joshua Cocker-Valu, David Massey, Vaasili Leota, Deina Morete. Reserves: Paolo Ragazzi, Thomas Lucas, George Crichton, James Slattery, Nicholas Hastings, Aaron Kelly, Maitaiasi Nairava, Killian O’Neill, Mika Faamausili, Scott Ogilvie, Anare Koliavu.