HARD EARNED: Souths defeated the Magpies in the reserve grade semi-final to book their place in the decider.
HARD EARNED: Souths defeated the Magpies in the reserve grade semi-final to book their place in the decider. Aidan Cureton

Souths up for fight on fourth time of asking

IF JOEL Clinton coaches Souths to a reserve grade premiership tomorrow, Wests will have no one to blame but themselves.

Because it was against Wests earlier this season that Clinton finally let himself fully embrace the coaching caper.

That game was the catalyst for Clinton's coaching career.

"It's funny actually. Early on in the year when we played Wests ... I didn't go all that well. I thought it might finally be time to let it go," the 2003 Penrith NRL premiership winner said.

"It took me about half a season to not want to play any more.

"For so long I still wanted to play - to put the boots on.

"It's been a big learning curve for me."

The 182-game NRL veteran has discovered a new lease on his rugby league life since hanging the boots up.

Having experienced the incredible highs of premiership success, Clinton's sole focus tomorrow will be to give his side every opportunity to revel in the same emotion.

"It was a long time ago when I won with the Panthers. It's a distant memory, but one I highly regard as one of the best achievements of my career," he said.

"Now it's all about preparation. They know what they've got to do. It's entirely up to the playing group and what attitude they turn up with."

There's nothing quite like winning a flag with your best mates.

'They've got the wood on us'

MAKE no mistake, Souths are the underdogs today.

The Tigers have earned favouritism courtesy of their head-to-head record this season - 3-0 to the boys out Pioneer Valley way.

But Clinton knows finals footy; how to handle the preparation, the occasion, the atmosphere.

Rest assured his team will be up for the fight.

"They've had the wood on us all year ... but in a grand final anything can happen," Clinton said.

"We're both as physically strong; both got good outside packs and a strong forward pack. That's why both teams are in the grand final."

Two key cogs

IF THE Sharks need a spark tomorrow, Clinton knows he can rely on one man to step up - captain Aaron Hughes.

"He's our halfback and he's been great for us all year," the coach said.

"He plays like a front-rower sometimes with that little, skinny halfback body."

When the going gets tough, front-rower Jermaine Stone gets going.

"Last week I think he had his best game of the year so far," Clinton said.

"They're the key players for mine. If those two turn up ready to go Sunday morning, I think we're in good stead to have a good crack at it."



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