NEXT GEN: Royals Rhys Cropper has been calm and collected under pressure this season, but he will face a tough task in his first Premier League grand final. Meanwhile Hugh Stanley has been a key cog in the season of the City Bears, but can he turn it on when it's needed most. Only time will tell.
NEXT GEN: Royals Rhys Cropper has been calm and collected under pressure this season, but he will face a tough task in his first Premier League grand final. Meanwhile Hugh Stanley has been a key cog in the season of the City Bears, but can he turn it on when it's needed most. Only time will tell. Shirleyanne Blanchard

Bears, Royals to turn it on on grand final stage

PREMIER LEAGUE: There are few things in life that are certain: death, taxes and knowing City Bears and Royals will turn it on against when they play each other.

The two rivals have had storied battles already this season with the ledger sitting at 3-2 Bears' way.

But there is no grander stage than the Grafton Hockey Association grand finals, and Clocktower Hotel Royals will feel like they owe the Bears' side after falling to them in the big dance in 2016.

But Bears also have a point to prove after they could not get the job done in the grand final last year against Barbs.

Royals captain Nathan Skeels, who was there for the club's heartache two years ago, said the side had put in the hard yards over the past two weeks and was looking as good as they ever had this season.

AGE OF WISDOM: Premier League leaders Dave Dart, City Bears, and Nathan Skeels, Royals, jostle for possession in the major semi-final.
AGE OF WISDOM: Premier League leaders Dave Dart, City Bears, and Nathan Skeels, Royals, jostle for possession in the major semi-final. Shirleyanne Blanchard

"We have had a great two weeks, we have had a really great turnout at training,” Skeels said. "It looks like we will have a full squad on deck for the decider, which is probably the first time that has happened this season.

"Bears are a good outfit, they are well coached and well organised, so this is going to be a tough ask for us.”

With a few young players coming through the ranks at Royals, Skeels said the main focus this week was to ensure the side stayed calm for the game.

It will be a job for the experienced players in the side to ensure they keep a lid on the emotions, and keep the young players thinking of it "as just another game of hockey”.

"We have some great experience in the ranks; Mick Hughes has played more than 30 years for Royals' A Grade, Matt Lobsey is an Australian masters representative, Kane Hancock has been a key for our midfield,” he said.

"But we also have Jake Lambeth and Rhys Cropper, who are two of the most exciting prospects in Grafton hockey.

"I think it will come down to whoever wants this one the most. It is going to be a grinding game, we are going to have to work really hard for it.”

While they might have lost 3-1 to Royals in the major semi-final, City Bears captain Mitch Lollback believed the Bears' grinding 1-0 win over Barbs in the preliminary final last weekend had set them up perfectly for the grand final.

"We needed to be tested by that Barbs' side and we were,” he said. "It really gives us that extra edge as we head into a tough tussle with Royals.

"Royals gave us a bit of a touch up in the semi-finals and there is a few blokes in our side that will be out for revenge.”

Lollback has been the stand-out addition for the Bears' side this season, which also boasts representative stars Justin Alford and Elliott Speed.

Clocktower Hotel Royals.
Clocktower Hotel Royals. Contributed

City Bears.
City Bears. Contributed

RESERVES

Sailors v Royals

WHILE Sailors were first through to the reserves grand final, the fact that Royals had to grind out a penalty shoot-out win in the preliminary final should have them feeling on top.

You can't get much better preparation for a grand final than an extra-time thriller the weekend before.

Royals also have the slight edge over their opponents in head-to-head action this season, which could also give them a good boost in confidence for the decider.

But you can never rule out the plucky Sailors outfit.

The blue brigade has a good mix of youth and experience in their ranks and any side with Australian masters representative "Doc” Terrey in its ranks can't be discounted.

It is going to come down to the side that can hold their composure when the chips are down.

LET'S PLAY: Sailors Reserves.
LET'S PLAY: Sailors Reserves. Contributed

Royals Reserves
Royals Reserves Contributed

THIRD GRADE

Barbs Vikings v Royals Leprechauns

BARBS Vikings go into this clash as deserved favourites, with Royals Leprechauns unable to defeat them in any of their previous matches during the regular season this year.

Barbs Vikings finished second on the Third Grade competition ladder, dropping only one game the entire season, and one place ahead of their grand final opponents, with Royals Leprechauns coming third at the end of the regular season.

Barbs Vikings enjoyed a 1-0 win over minor premiers

Royals Irish in their semi-final clash, and the season of

Royals Irish came to an end a week later when they went down 3-2 to Royals Leprechauns.

While Barbs Vikings have had the bragging rights over Royals Leprechauns this season, the widest margin between the two was in a 2-0 Vikings win back in round three.

Barbs Vikings
Barbs Vikings Contributed

Royals Leprechauns
Royals Leprechauns Contributed

THIRD GRADE CONSOL.

Sailors Cetnaj v Sailors Roches Hotel

WHEN it comes to the men's third-grade consolation final, or unofficially the fourth-grade grand final, there is no doubt Sailors will come out on top.

But which Sailors side will it be?

This will prove to be the grudge match of the GHA grand final day, with the two club sides throwing friendly banter at each other all week leading up to the big dance.

They are also the two most evenly matched sides heading into decider day, with each sharing a win over the other and a draw the only other result between the two sides.

Sailors Cetnaj may have a slight advantage after taking the last contest between the two 5-1 but that was more than a month ago.

It will also feature our clash of the day between the Blanchards.

READY: Sailors Roches.
READY: Sailors Roches. Contributed


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