If the Warringah Rats win the Shute Shield on Saturday, coach Darren Coleman might have Craig Bellamy to thank.
Coleman’s Rats are in their second title game in as many years after winning their first Shute Shield title last year.
The tragic death of Rats fourth grade player Lachlan Ward, brother of Warringah no. 8 Sam, was a uniquely emotional force driving the team to that final.
This year's title run has a very different feel.
“Some people last year probably said we did it on the back of emotion,” Coleman said.
“Sure, we had a lot of emotional energy and in hindsight it probably helped our cause so as a team we thought if we could do it again it'd probably a better sporting achievement to actually know we're genuinely the best football team as well.”
Coleman spent time with Melbourne Storm’s Bellamy and Penrith general manager of football Phil Gould to look for advice on how to take his team to the top again.
“I did a lot in the off-season around a lot of professional development,” he said.
“I spent a fair bit of time around people that have backed up championships.
“I went and spent a week with Craig Bellamy at the Storm, I went and spoke with Phil Gould a bit about how he butchered the Panthers' repeat effort.
“I tried to figure out what made champion teams be able to back it up and I found that there was a few quick tips out of that.”
The Rats proved last year they had some serious mettle and a string of close wins this year has given them confidence they can produce the goods in the clutch moments.
“We haven't lost now since round seven and we're in a good space as a team and we're just confident,” Coleman said.
“We've been in so many games this year where the last 10 minutes is undecided and we just come out on the right side.
“It's a credit to the calmness of Hamish our captain and we've got some really good experienced guys that just know how to stay calm and cool under pressure.”
Both sides will have busloads of supporters coming to North Sydney Oval but Uni captain Rohan O’Regan is expecting the most hostile supporters to be against Uni.
“As a Sydney Uni player every Saturday you’ve got people into you,” he said.
“That’s part of the club we are. I was down here last Saturday (for Norths-Warringah) and the last thing the North Sydney announcer said was, ‘Anyone but Uni’.
“We take that in our stride and we enjoy it."
Sydney Uni was in the Shute Shield in 2016, going down to Norths and a five-year gap since their 2013 title is their longest drought since 2001.
Uni coach Rob Taylor said the expectation of success was no
"With the University legacy, particularly over the last 20 years, there is always a high expectation to win every week," he said.
"It feels like a Shute Shield final every week. The opposition turn up every week.
"Most rugby people would know that Sydney Uni is a very fit team that plays the 80 minutes.
“I always believe. Everyone knows Uni is not going to give up."Sydney Uni takes on Warringah in the Shute Shield final on Saturday September 1 at North Sydney Oval, kicking off at 3:10pm AEST LIVE on 7TWO.