Hopes and dreams of a town behind them
FROM fifth to finalists.
The Sarina Crocs were not meant to be playing for a premiership this weekend.
Rangi Karehana's group surprised everybody, except maybe themselves, with a stellar run through the under-19s finals series.
Their road was not an easy one.
It started on August 18, an elimination final against Brothers and an eight-point victory.
Then came third seed Souths and again a narrow win, this time by four points.
Wests were next, in last weekend's preliminary final.
With the most unlikely of grand final spots up for grabs, the Crocs continued their giant-killing run up the ladder; final margin 12-10.
"I don't think anyone expected us to get to the grand final," Karehana said.
"We've taken the hard road, but I give us a big chance.
"It will take a big effor this weekend against an in-form Maggies side that has had a week off. They'll be fresh. But we can do it."
The Crocs did not field a 19s team last season. They nearly didn't again in 2019.
But people power spoke; a passion for club and community shone through, and the Crocs came out with a point to prove.
Win or lose tomorrow, they have already done that.
"To not even have a team at the start of the year to fielding a team and making a grand final ... it's a great effort from this group of incredible young men," Karehana said.
Outside of the Under-15 Plate Final, this is the only Crocs team representing Sarina in a grand final this weekend.
Karehana had no doubt his side's unlikely run to the grand final was forged through a shared sense of community.
"We're proud of who we are and where we've come from," he said.
"All from different backgrounds, with strong family ties that they can hopefully draw upon.
"They've all played together since junior footy. Hopefully that mateship will get them over the line.
"They have to be willing to bleed for each other; those extra efforts, the small things, it all needs to go right."
Same same but different
KARAHENA has been here before.
As a player he was fortunate enough to contest multiple grand finals.
As coach his role is different, but the butterflies in the pit of his stomach are still the same.
"I'm just as nervous as coach. That's just part of the deal with footy," he said.
"Hopefully I can feed some of my experience to these young players and (impress upon them) what it's all about and just how much this game means to their club and community."