Pain of 2016 defeat driving Students towards Shute Shield glory
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Pain of 2016 defeat driving Students towards Shute Shield glory

Sydney University halfback Jake Gordon says the pain of grand final defeat two years ago and the chance to snap a five-year premiership drought are the prime motivating factors for his side ahead of Saturday’s Shute Shield decider.

The scene is set for what will be a pulsating clash between Sydney University and Warringah at North Sydney Oval in front of a crowd that could edge close to the 20,000 mark.

Ready: Sydney University players train ahead of Saturday's Shute Shield final.

Ready: Sydney University players train ahead of Saturday's Shute Shield final. Credit:Christopher Pearce

Warringah are looking to chalk up back-to-back titles following an emotionally charged 30-25 win over Norths in last year’s final, while Sydney University have their sights set on winning the Shute Shield for the first time since 2013.

On paper, most rugby pundits would agree the Students boast a superior starting XV that features the likes of Gordon, Tolu Latu, Paddy Ryan and Brad Wilkin, as well as Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps off the bench.

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The bookies have the Students as favourites over the Rats but as everyone knows, anything can happen on grand final day.

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Gordon was part of the University team that fell to Norths in the 2016 final and the pain of that afternoon has not been lost on anyone.

“[For] the guys who were involved in 2016, it was pretty disappointing that year,” Gordon said. “Going into that game we were probably the favourites and didn’t get the result. For the guys that were involved, they are hungry to go one better. To come back and win a title would be a good finish to the year.

“We’re really excited. We have a good mix of younger boys with a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve had a really good training week. We got through everything we need to.”

On Friday morning, Warringah players were presented with their grand final jerseys by loved ones and mentors throughout their careers. It was an emotional event for players and they are all hoping to channel that positive energy when referee Will Houston blows his whistle at 3.10pm.

Showdown: Sydney University skipper Rohan O’Regan and Warringah captain Hamish Angus pose at North Sydney Oval before the Shute shield grand final.

Showdown: Sydney University skipper Rohan O’Regan and Warringah captain Hamish Angus pose at North Sydney Oval before the Shute shield grand final.Credit:Christopher Pearce

“Last year the boys were more nervous,” said captain Hamish Angus. “Having won last year it seems like the boys are really excited because we know what the atmosphere at the ground is like. The boys are really excited to soak it up.”

For Warringah centre Seb Wileman, he isn’t so sure if the butterflies will completely disappear.

“Last year there was a nervousness of the unknown,” Wileman said. “We hadn’t been in that spot before. The thing that is making us nervous is we do know there is going to be a good crowd and we know how good it feels to win. It’s such a huge thing for us to win and we want to replicate what we did last year.”

The Rats, who have not lost a game since round seven, have forged a reputation as a side that find a way to win when scores are tight heading into the final 20 minutes.

Their coach, Darren Coleman, said earlier this week he would back his troops to get the job done but there is equal confidence in the Students camp they can twist the knife in late doors.

“They seem to be able to handle those tight moments but with our team we’ve got a lot of enthusiasm, especially with some of those younger guys like Lachie Swinton,” Gordon said. “They can go all day. If they can hold with us I’m sure we’ll be going hell for leather in those last 20.”

Students second-rower Dave McDuling believes the game will be decided on who can win the big moments. He also said reputation would count for nothing.

“The Shute Shield is incredibly high standard," McDuling said. "They’ve been the benchmark for the last two years. What people have done outside the Shute Shield is almost irrelevant There’s guys in their side capable of playing to a very high level.”