Hedger leaning on elder statesmen during Grand Final week

Wed, Aug 31, 2022, 8:25 AM
Declan Armstrong
by Declan Armstrong
Hedger and Jack McCalman at Leichhardt Oval on Tuesday. Photo: Kaz Watson
Hedger and Jack McCalman at Leichhardt Oval on Tuesday. Photo: Kaz Watson

Sydney University coach Sean Hedger says his side should be ready for Gordon to come after them with “innovative and challenging phase play” as they prepare for the two sides first Grand Final meeting since 1972.

With Gordon reaching the Final despite finishing the regular season in seventh, Hedger believes the combination of Harrison Goddard, Jack McGregor and Reece Macdonald has been instrumental to their charge toward a second consecutive Shute Shield Grand Final.

The 46-year-old said any chance of Finals success on Saturday would come down to how much his side trusts their defence.

“If you get your defence right in these Grand Finals, often enough you’re the one winning the day,” he said.

“Gordon is blessed with multiple ball distributors across the park. For us, that means it won’t be a matter of us tracking our direct opponent, we may have to track multiple attacking options at a time.

“The ball moved around a hell of a lot more in their [Gordon] game than it did in ours. We expect that’ll happen again on Saturday.”

Despite the anticipation and hype surrounding the first Shute Shield Grand Final since 2020, Hedger says he’s allowed the elder statesman of the group to take the lead throughout the week.

“Experience is invaluable as you enter these big Finals,” he said.

“If anything, the amount I say this week is lessened because I rely on the words of those who have been there and done it before.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky to have the likes of Rohan O’Regan, Sam Talakai and Tim Clements return for us, bringing with them a wealth of Finals experience.

“You can’t coach experience, so I’ll be relying on those boys this week.”

Uni defeated Eastwood last weekend to seal their place in the Grand Final. Photo: AJF Photography

It’s been fifty years since Sydney University and Gordon have faced off in a Shute Shield Grand Final. On that day in 1972, it was the Students who prevailed 10-6, in what would prove to be Uni’s final taste of Grand Final glory until 2001.

Fifty years on, only the Stags stand in the way of the club's thirty-third premiership.

Gordon also has a chance at history, with a potential premiership on Saturday marking the club's first back-to-back premierships in their history. A win for Gordon would also see the Chatswood locals notch their tenth premiership, a feat bettered only by Randwick and their Grand Final opponents.

Despite the allure of Grand Final history, Sean Hedger says the group's mindset isn’t being swept away.

“All week the message has been to trust the process and what we’ve done to this point,” he said.

“As long as everyone knows their role, you’ll see the influence of older heads being able to keep the younger player's minds on the task.

“Even though it’s the biggest game of the year, the execution of our basics will ultimately impact whether we’re good enough.”

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