by Blake Edwards
Illawarra Cutters Head Coach Jason Demetriou is confident his team are up for the challenge of finals football ahead of their Qualifying Final against Wests Tigers at UOW, Jubilee Oval, Kogarah.
The Cutters enter the encounter having come off a gutsy 28-20 victory over the Wyong Roos last round to cement second spot on the NSW Cup ladder.
Demetriou believes his team can take a lot of confidence out of the victory heading into the match and will be bolstered in the playing ranks by the return of halfback Drew Hutchison, who represented the St George Illawarar Dragons last round.
The Cutters, who finished second overall in attack and outright first in defence, have already faced the Tigers twice thus far and came out on top in both tussles.
Furthermore, Demetriou is pleased with NSWRL's decision to have the finals game played before the Dragons NRL fixture against the Newcastle Knights at UOW Jubilee Oval.
“I think we can take a lot of confidence out of Saturday’s game agains the Roos," said Demetriou.
“We had few blokes out in key positions, so to go up there with the squad we had and come away with that result was really pleasing.
“It’s great that we were able to finish second on the ladder and pick up a few other little milestones along the way.
“Now we’ve got to go on and be the first Cutters team to make it into a grand final and who knows from there.
"We all know that there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done between now and then though.
“It’s a home final for us which is great as we found out pretty early that the game wasn’t going to be played at Wollongong, so to get a game at Kogarah was the next best thing.
"It’s going to be a huge boost being on the big stage before the NRL game and also on television is a big plus for the players.
“It’s a good opportunity for those players who aren’t on NRL contracts to get some exposure in the shop window, and I’m sure they’ll use the exposure to put their best foot forward.
“It’s the top eight now and a new competition which means there’s no such thing as easy beats.
“It’s all about preparing well throughout the week, and turning up with the right attitude to perform for the eight minutes."