Friday, 27 September 2013

The Final Final Countdown (No.5)

Time to 'Dare Mighty Things'.

"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short: again and again;
who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; 
who spends himself in a worthy cause; 
who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, 
and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs - even though checkered by failure - than to rank with those timid souls who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat"   

Theodore Roosevelt

There are 37 professional/semi-pro Rugby League clubs in Super League and the Championships. Come Sunday at 2pm, the 2013 season will already be over for 31 of them. 

It's strange: I never really contemplated what I'd write ahead of a Hornets appearance in a Grand Final. But here we are...

It's looking like Oldham  will be at full strength in Sunday’s promotion-deciding 'Finale di A627M ElClassico' - and Scott Naylor's taking a laid-back approach

"We won’t be killing ourselves in training this week," he said in the Oldham Chronic. "The emphasis will be on staying calm and relaxed. We don’t need to do anything differently. We’re getting ready for a game of rugby, just like we have all season." As long as it's the same preparation they put in for the semi-final, that'll work out nicely, thanks.

Indeed, Naylor's started the mind games: “Come Sunday we’ll be relaxed. But we’ll also be ready. That’s the key.”  Wow, the power of psychology!

Naylor says he won’t announce his line-up until the day before the game, but it'll probably have an eerily familiar feel, with Palfrey and Ford their go-to strike players. With typical Roughyed hubris,  Lepori said this week: “A club like Oldham, with the history it has and the support it gets, should really be in the Championship, playing at that level.” Whitebank neatly airbrushed out there. 

Actually, as we're a club 'like Oldham', perhaps he means us? We'd bring so much more to the Championship. Like showers…

Meanwhile, Oldham prop Michael Ward - a maths teacher - insists defeat to Hornets in Sunday’s Championship One play-off final 'isn’t an option'. Actually, of the three available, it is. Even you should be able to conjugate that equation, Mr Ward. Perhaps Ofsted should have a quiet word…

In the Hornets camp, Ian Talbot adopts a more contemplative approach, insisting it would be a ‘fairytale’ if his side wins on Sunday. Tol said: "We've been through a lot of adversity this season. There were times when I was questioning what I was doing, and quite a lot of this squad were playing amateur rugby last season."

"They've got better and better as the season's gone on - wouldn't it be a fairytale if Rochdale were to get promoted?" 

While it looks like Ian will have a fully fit squad to select from, he believes that our playoff odyssey this year has annealed his team for the battle ahead.

 "Our last two games have been bruising encounters where we’ve come up with last-minute plays to win. That bodes well for us, because we know if we have another tight game we can come out on top. The lads have already shown they’ve got the determination. Play-off games are renowned for being tight affairs and our boys have been through that a couple of times already."

Paul Crook too spoke this week of Hornets' singular focus for this season: “Everyone at the club has one goal in mind, that’s promotion to the Championship, and we’ll be going all out to ensure we get that this weekend.”

As each of us prepares for Sunday, it's worth remembering that we ask an awful lot of the lads who pull on the shirt on our behalf. We get up for work on a Monday morning happy or sulking depending on the previous day's result. They do it too - but battered and sore. Sunday is their reward for a season played out to the death, with every last drop wrung from it. When most others have faltered, the guys who carry our colours have found that extra yard, that extra tackle, that extra pass - that extra kick - that's pulled us through. It may not have been perfect, but they found the character and the courage to do what 30 other teams couldn't.  It's been an extraordinary effort.

So, let's all suck in one last time and give it everything we have left in the tank.  It's time to dare greatly - because who dares, wins.