Mustangs sound finals alert
By GREG WHITE
ORARA Valley captain-coach Matt Donovan was in a talkative mood after yesterday's 38-24 loss to Macleay Valley at Coramba.
He talked and talked ? but little of what he had to say was complimentary to an Axemen outfit completely outshone on the day.
"Another performance like that and we have no right to play in the semi-finals," he said getting straight down to basics.
"On paper we have a brilliant side that can win anything.
"But what's on paper counts for bugger-all if you don't deliver the goods and from what we gave today, the evidence says we are about to go out backwards."
Without being discourteous to the Mustangs, the side that has grafted its way to third position on the ladder with a week of the minor premiership remaining is tradesman-like, rather than flashy.
But they do have one masterful quality and his name is Willy Lockwood.
"At no time have we tried to talk ourselves up above what we're all about," winning coach Kurt Hancock admitted.
"We're completely no frills.
"There's a plan, a set of tasks to be performed and if we do the job properly, we win.
"If we don't, we lose."
Part of that 'no frills' policy is to steer the spotlight away from Lockwood's contribution.
But that's not easy to do when week after week, the burly playmaker rips opposing teams to pieces if not by his undoubted skills, then by his awesome reputation.
He looks to have all the time in the world to do his business and in one crucial moment yesterday, performed an action that should have any self-respecting opponent hanging their heads in shame for letting him get away with it.
Bringing the ball out from his own line and ambling rather than running, Lockwood absent-mindedly stopped for a moment to adjust his mouthguard.
Not one Axemen seized on his moment of vulnerability to bring him crashing to the turf.
Instead he was allowed to select a ball receiver before doubling around in support to make the break.
Along the sidelines the few supporters in attendance stole hurried looks at each other before casting their eyes groundwards.
"Exactly what I mean," Donovan groaned when reminded of the incident.
"The 'old' Orara would have smashed Willy.
"It's not that we're playing nervous or anything.
"The grunt is gone and we have a week to get it back or Woolgoolga are going to wipe the floor with us next Sunday."
Another effort like yesterday means the Axemen have no more than two outings left in their season.
"Sawtell will be a step up next week," Hancock said.
"It'll be a good test for how we'll go in the four weeks that count the most."