NRC: Who's who in the NRC decider

by Marty Cambridge

The 2016 Buildcorp NRC decider in Tamworth between the NSW Country Eagles and Perth Spirit is just one sleep away.  We take a look at some of the key battles that could decide this year’s champions.

The Wallaby props

These two Wallaby-capped props have tonnes of Super Rugby experience and will be expected to lead from the front of their respective sides. Pek Cowan has re-signed until the end of 2018. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyRyan hasn’t missed a game in 2016 and will desperately want to lift the Buildcorp NRC trophy in front of his hometown, while Cowan has played just three times this season for the Spirit. The leadership of front will have a massive impact on this year’s decider.

The number sixes

These two young, motivated back rowers have had excellent seasons for their respective clubs. Figg has brought a Sevens element to the 15-man game with great ball running capabilities and offload abilities, while Haylett-Petty continues to impress and can cover a range positions across the second and back row.

Figg is without a contract for 2017 but will preseason with the Western Force where Haylett-Petty is establishing himself as a Super Rugby regular.

The halves

There’s little doubt amongst those who kept a keen eye on this year’s competition that the Eagles’ Gordon and Deegan have been the stand-out halves pairing of 2016. Gordon leads the try-scoring numbers while Deegan has the ability to control territory with a strong kicking game. However, this will be their toughest test, up against last year’s Buildcorp NRC Player of the Year, Jono Lance and scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens.  The pair both have Super Rugby experience, while the Eagles duo are yet to taste top-flight footy.   Perth are also boosted by another Super Rugby half in Ian Prior in the reserves.

The centres 

In potentially the most mouthwatering battle of the final, there’s a genuine Super Rugby match-up in the midfield.  Kyle Godwin and Dave Horwitz will start at 12 and 13 for the Eagles up against Ben Tapuai and Billy Meakes for the Spirit. The Eagles will host their semi-final in Newcastle. Photo: SuppliedGodwin and Horwitz have formed a partnership in just eight weeks and when not scoring themselves are setting up their wingers. Western Force fans will be liking the look of Meakes, who was somewhat of an unknown quantity when he returned from three years in the English Premiership but has proven to be an electrifying addition to the Spirit backline.  To add even further spice, it’s also another opportunity for Godwin to come up against his former Western Force teammates.  

The fullbacks

In another exciting clash, Spirit’s Luke Morahan is set to line-up opposite Andrew Kellaway from the Eagles.  Morahan was released by Michael Cheika from the Wallabies touring squad and will play in his second NRC grand final, while Kellaway is back for just his third game since he injured his knee back in Round Two.  Both are explosive ball-runners who know how to find the try-line and will have a massive impact on Saturday night’s result. 

Catch the Buildcorp NRC grand final LIVE and exclusive on FOX SPORTS 502 at 7:45pm AEDT following the Bledisloe Cup.