By Trent Thomas
The Illawarra Cutters will commence their NSW Cup Finals series against the Penrith Panthers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
The Cutters return to the field following their allocated bye round and will have fresh legs when they take on the Minor Premiers.
The Cutters have yet to beat the Panthers this season having lost by the closest of margins in both encounters but Head Coach Scott Logan has named a strong team headlined by ‘Illawarra Coal Cutters Player of the Year’ Shannon Wakeman at lock.
Logan will additionally be bolstered by the return of Coaches Award recipient Kyle Eather from injury as well as St George Illawarra Dragons players Adam Quinlan, Nathan Green, Jack Stockwell, Rory O’Brien, Willie Mataka, Yaw Kiti Glymin and Drew Hutchison.
The Panthers boast a formidable side boasting a combination of experience and potential including Kevin Naiqama, Wes Naiqama, Tom Humble, and Nathan Smith.
The Cutters finished the season in fourth position, the highest placing in the Club’s three-year history, and will have a second-chance if they are piped to the post this weekend.
“We have a great team that can go a long way into the Finals and obviously finishing in the top four is an added bonus getting the second chance,” said Wakeman.
“Personally I’ve been really enjoying my football and spending time with the boys as I feel everything is starting to click.
“I am honoured to have been named player of the year but I have been helped by a really good set of players which has helped my form.
“Winning the award was a real surreal moment for me but there is no time to be caught up in it with Finals starting this Sunday."