Nerves aplenty for finalists

by Brett McKay

Both NRC finalists admit to healthy nerves and readiness ahead of Saturday night’s final, between the Canberra Vikings and Queensland Country.

Speaking in Canberra ahead of tomorrow night’s match, Vikings’ centre James Dargaville and injured Country prop James Slipper both confirmed their respective sides are ready to leave it all on the field in the final.

“We had a really physical game last weekend against Perth, and we had a few bruised and battered bodies, but we’ve had a really good week at training and everyone’s ready to rip in tomorrow night,” Dargaville said.

“Everyone’s excited, and the people of Canberra are getting behind us, so we’re looking forward to it.”
James Dargaville and the Vikings are sticking with the red and white strip. Photo: Getty ImagesDargaville confirmed that good old superstition played a big part in the side’s decision to stick with the Vikings’ red and white hooped jersey, amid talk this week they might don the Canberra Kookaburras strip for the final.

“We’ve been winning in that all season, so we may as well keep what’s been working for us,” he said.

In naming an unchanged side for the final, Vikings coach Tim Sampson announced that they will be looking at an all-new playing strip in 2018.

“We understand the value of the Kookaburras jersey to the community, so we’re excited to announce we’ll unveil a new jersey design for 2018 that the whole ACT rugby community can embrace," he said.

Dargaville confirmed the nerves were there at training again earlier in the week.

“I think our Tuesday sessions every week have been a bit scratchy, but it was a bit of a lighter week this week - everyone’s just pumped and ready to play,” he said.
James Slipper won't play after fracturing his eye socket. Photo: Getty ImagesSlipper has been ruled out of the final with a fractured eye socket after the punch to the left eye he received in a scrum scuffle in last week’s semi-final win over the Fijian Drua saw his eye close over during the game.

“I think I’m actually running the water,” he said, confirming he’s still experiencing discomfort five days later.

Slipper said with Country having played last Sunday, they’ve been able to adjust and slip back into their normal routine fairly well this week, even if the nervous tension is lifting as the final nears.

“So, in terms of our routine, nothing’s changed, but in terms of the boys, they’re a bit excited," he said.

"But that’s to be expected, too.Ben Hyne and the Vikings put 48 points on Country in round one. Photo: Getty Images"We’ve kept a lid on things, but we’ll fire up tomorrow."

Slipper says Country’s first round loss to the Vikings in Canberra has actually set up the rest of their hugely successful 2017 NRC campaign.

“After that game, we put the marker down about our defence. And credit to the boys, they didn’t just talk about it, they’ve made it happen on the field,” he said.

“I know it was round one, but that game was a turning point for us. It’s nice to see how far they’ve come, and hopefully they can get over the line tomorrow night.”

The Vikings host Queensland Country at Viking Park on Saturday November 11, kicking off at 7:30pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Admission at the ground is FREE.