Finals a 'realistic goal' for Gudmunson and his Pirates in 2021

by Declan Armstrong

West Harbour Head Coach, Mark Gudmunson, says his side is heading on an upwards trajectory and remain focused on playing Shute Shield Finals in 2021.

The Pirates have knocked off the Wildfires and Manly so far this season, the latter a gripping 33-32 victory thanks to a Kodie Drury-Hawkins penalty goal in the dying minutes. 

Despite just two wins, West Harbour sit only one victory shy of the likes of Eastwood, Souths and Randwick, the teams currently vying for the lower Finals positions. 

“I don’t think we’re that far off at all,” said Gudmunson. 

“We’ve had a couple of decent performances against top sides and it’s built some genuine belief in our group.

“We’ve definitely got a Finals position on our radar.”

West Harbour haven’t featured in a Shute Shield Finals series since 2013, when the competition included a unique eight-team postseason format. 

In a Finals series completely dominated by Sydney University, the Pirates bowed out to Randwick in a hard-fought 37-24 clash. 

But Gudmunson believes his side have the potential to break their seven-year Finals drought in 2021.

“Our biggest area of focus is being able to complete our opportunities,” he said. 

“We’ve been getting close against the top teams, so if we can finish what we create we’ll be looking at earning points.

“If we can build completions off our ability to offload, we’ll put ourselves ahead in most matches.”

West Harbour’s Finals aspirations have been amplified recently, with the announcement that Club favourite, Alofa Alofa, will be returning to the Pirates side in the second portion of the year. 

Alofa last donned the Pirate colours in 2013, in a season which saw him score 13 tries and consequently earn a contract with the NSW Waratahs. 

The Samoan international has since applied his trade overseas in both England and France, leading Gudmunson to believe the proud Pirate is itching for another opportunity in Australia. 

“I’ve been in regular chats with Alofa and he’s incredibly excited to pull the Pirate colours back on,” he said. 

“He’s a class player and will really boost our shot at a top six spot.” 

This Saturday’s clash against the winless Two Blues shapes up as imperative for Gudmunson’s men, who will be looking to capitalise on a favourable run of fixtures in the coming weeks. 

Following their bye round and an untimely long weekend, the Pirates face Penrith, Souths and the inconsistent Eastern Suburbs. 

Gudmunson admits the next month of rugby will be key to any Pirate progression. 

“We need to get some points on the table over the next month,” he said. 

“The Club is starting to build some strong depth, which is pushing our top players to cement their positions. 

“We like the way we’re progressing and think Finals is a genuinely realistic goal for us this year.”

Teams

Two Blues 

1. Nick Blacklock
2. Kelli Taumaletila
3. Paea Tapuosi
4. Solo Vosaicake
5. Tesimoni Taliauli
6. Riley Jacobson
7. George Prain
8. Tevita Vea
9. Sam Babb
10. John Pale
11. Phillip Pale
12. Tepai Moeroa
13. Trent Winterstein
14. Saiyasi Ikanidrodro
15. Conor McEldowney


West Harbour 

1. Sonny Satuala
2. Tonga Tangitau
3. Cameron Betham 
4. Jordan Sharp
5. Otto-Louis Wendt
6. Kaliova Nacina
7. Shaun Dixon
8. Visiano Vaohea
9. Dimitry Chipizubov
10. Kodie Drury-Hawkins
11. Graeme Kolomalu 
12. Isaiah Leota
13. Christopher Ebeling
14. Justin Marsters
15. Faiva Faiva

West Harbour will travel to Camden Rugby Park this Saturday to face the Two Blues. 

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