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‘It’s okay to dream’: Gordon set for Finals battle with Students

Fri, 02/09/2022, 6:54 am
Declan Armstrong
by Declan Armstrong
Gordon will face Sydney University at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow. Photo: Kaz Watson
Gordon will face Sydney University at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow. Photo: Kaz Watson

With recent years spent predominantly in the lower half of the Shute Shield ladder, Gordon skipper James Lough says it’s surreal to now see his proud club prepare for its second consecutive Grand Final.

Lough was there in 2020 on a drizzly day at Leichhardt Oval, as the Stags trumped Eastwood to lift their first Shute Shield since 1998.

Two years on and Lough now captains his beloved Highlanders into the final weekend of the season. The Chatswood Rugby junior says he’s proud to see his club at the pinnacle of the competition yet again.

“It’s hard to put into words how proud I am,” he said.

“Like so many others, I was there during the hard years, so to see this club at the top again is so exciting.

“You can feel the energy amongst the club, all the way from our supporters to our players.

“To be back in another Grand Final is a dream come true.”

Gordon enters the Final on a considerable wave of momentum, having won nine of their last eleven matches, including three elimination finals in recent weeks.

Lough says that while it’s been tough physically, the belief his group has gained in reaching the Final from seventh can’t be underestimated.

“We’ve had to take the hard path, there’s no doubting that,” he said.

“But the benefit in that is there can be no complacency, you can’t afford to leave anything on the field in those elimination finals.

“We’ve had to fight the whole way since returning to the top eight, building up a lot of mental fortitude along the way.

“I think rebounding from that slow start puts us in better shape this weekend.”

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Gordon defeated Norths to book their ticket in the Grand Final. Photo: Andrew Quinn

Only Randwick and Sydney University hold more premierships than the Highlanders, with nine over their proud 86-year history.

It’s the first time Gordon has been in consecutive Grand Finals since 1992-93. In that period, the Stags rebounded from a 28-14 loss to Randwick to defeat Warringah the following year.

Now, 29 years on and Gordon have another chance at winning consecutive premierships. With Mahe Vailanu, Reece MacDonald and the Goddard brothers just some of the 2020 premiership names returning for another title shot, Lough says the side's belief is sky high.

“You can’t underestimate the power of having that core group back with us this weekend,” he said.

“We’ve been there before and been successful, so our duty is to guide those younger guys through this week and ensure they understand their role.

“We have to enjoy the week because we know how special it is, but we also have to remember that the job isn’t finished.

“It’s okay to dream, but we’ve got a huge task ahead of us this weekend.”

Purchase your Grand Final tickets here.

Grand Final Fixtures

Eastern Suburbs v Manly – 1st Colts, 10:45am

Sydney University v Eastern Suburbs – Second Grade, 12:45pm

Sydney University v Gordon – First Grade, 3:15pm

All games at Leichhardt Oval.

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