Second Lake title would be ‘even more satisfying’ than the first

ON THE BALL: Lake Albert's Jamie Rankin protects the ball from Henwood Park's Ben Bedwell during their teams' 0-0 draw round seven at Rawlings Park. Picture: Kieren L Tilly
ON THE BALL: Lake Albert's Jamie Rankin protects the ball from Henwood Park's Ben Bedwell during their teams' 0-0 draw round seven at Rawlings Park. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Clinching the Pascoe Cup on Sunday would be even sweeter than last year’s premiership, according to Lake Albert coach Michael Babic.

The Sharks ripped through the competition in 2016 and topped it off with a 3-1 grand final victory over Cootamundra.

Despite emerging as a force to be reckoned with once again in 2017, this season has presented greater challenges for Lake. 

They have suffered losses to Henwood Park, Leeton and Tolland, and were beaten to the minor premiership by the much-improved Hawks, their opponents in Sunday’s final.

But according to Babic, it is those challenges which would make Lake Albert’s second consecutive title even more satisfying than their first.

“Going back-to-back would be quite an achievement,” Babic said.

“This season has been much harder than last year, it’s been a battle all year, so winning it would be even more satisfying.

“Keeping the team playing at a premiership level over such an extended period is not an easy thing to do, finding ways to stay motivated week in week out.”

But in order to clinch consecutive titles, they will have to get past Henwood Park.

The good news for Sharks fans is that when the two sides last met in the major semi-final two weeks ago, the men in red and black prevailed 5-0 with a stunning second-half scoring onslaught, led by a Henri Gardner brace.

The win allowed Lake Albert to skip the semi-final stage in Tumut and jump straight into the grand final. 

Despite Tumut being an objectively delightful part of the world, Babic said he was quite happy to skip the trip, adding that he was not concerned about his team becoming rusty with a full fortnight off.

“We were quite happy to have the rest,” he said.

“Having that time off has allowed some of the guys to shake off a few of those niggling injuries from throughout the season.

“We’ve been building nicely over the past six weeks anyway. 

“We started experimenting with some things and preparing for finals two to three games before the end of the regular season.”