Woolgoolga, led by tough John Cross, came out on top.
Woolgoolga, led by tough John Cross, came out on top.

Under pressure: Wallace tips Woopi to feel the heat

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

TWO weeks ago Woolgoolga and Sawtell went at each other hammer and tong in a rugged semi-final and tomorrow it's on again as the Seahorses and Panthers give their all to win their way into next week's Group 2 grand final. This will be the seventh time in two seasons that these two very similar teams have met and Woolgoolga hold a distinct advantage as far as previous results over that period are concerned, with a 5-1 win-lossrecord. Panthers coach Craig Wallace believes that all that statistic proves to him is that all the pressure is resting firmly on Woolgoolga's shoulders. "There's no pressure on us at all, it's all on them," Wallace said. "They've been the premiership favourites for a while now and they're the ones that are playing at home." The most recent encounter between these two saw the Seahorses prevail 32-22 in the minor preliminary semi-final. Wallace is confident that his team is more than capable of reversing that result at the Woolgoolga Sportsground tomorrow. "I wouldn't say that two weeks ago was a learning curve, it's more of a case of we know what we did wrong," he added. "We know what to do to fix it so that the result goes our way this time. We've fixed that this week at training and had a good chat about it and worked hard on it." Excitement around the Northern Beaches has been building all week leading up to tomorrow's clash and when referee Nathan Grace blows his whistle at the kick-off, that feeling should have built to fever-pitch levels. Woolgoolga club president Chris Hughes has been frantic this week with preparations for the expected bumper crowd but he knows that all the effort is rather hollow if the Seahorses don't make it to next week's 'big dance'. "Obviously it's our biggest game in 15 years, basically since the last time we made the grand final," he said. "A lot of these players will never get to play in a grand final so this could be their best chance. "With John Cross retiring this will be the last home game for him so I'm sure the boys will lift because of that but from what I can can gather this week, I think everyone in Woolgoolga's going to the footy on Sunday." This game promises to be a good old-fashioned showdown that fans will enjoy. There's no need to pump it up but Wallace explained why these two teams always put on a good show. "I suppose we play pretty much the same style of football as we've both got a big forward pack and zippy backs," he said. "That means that we're both going to be in for a hard tussle and it will basically come down to which team cracks first. "I know 'Crossy' will have his boys pumped up for it and I can gurantee that we'll be exactly the same."



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