Norths coach Simon Cron says he hasn’t dreamed of an emotional farewell as he tries to take the Shoreman to back-to-back titles when they face Warringah in the Shute Shield grand final at North Sydney Oval.
The Kiwi will link with the Waratahs in an assistant role for the next Super Rugby season but has business to finish in the club rugby showpiece on Saturday afternoon, which should attract more than 10,000 fans.
Norths have been steadily building at the right end of the season and earned their spot with a 42-32 victory over Eastwood last Sunday. The Rats beat rivals Manly 27-17 in the derby to get their crack at the crown.
Cron has been the head coach at Norths since 2015 and said he had tried to keep the emotion out of it as he prepared his team for the decider against a Rats outfit that has split the honours in their two meetings this season.
“It’s my last game coaching the boys at Norths. I’ll still work with a lot of them over the next few years but I haven’t thought about it much, there’s so much on our slate. At some stage it will probably sink in,” Cron said.
Player turnover will see Norths head into the decider with a host of new faces, although Cron has backed the likes of halfback Nick Duffy to stand up and be counted on the big occasion.
Others, like Sevens Olympian Cam Clark, have been there and done it all before.
“Similar in some positions. I’d say eight or nine are from last year, about 40 per cent of the team is new. There’s a few new guys experiencing grand final week, which is always fun,” added Cron.
“Some of the new boys have a big-game mentality. They don’t get flustered by big occasions. Nick Duffy in nine is a big game player, I believe. Cam Clark in the midfield has been at an Olympics.
“A lot of people would favour the rats in some aspects of the game, us in others. I wouldn’t say any team is a real favourite. Both teams will go at it, there’s no doubt about that.”
Cron concedes the Rats have the size advantage in the pack and will use their muscle to give half Josh Holmes some quick ball. But he has backed his set piece to go toe-to-toe with heavyweight Warringah forwards.
“In the last game, we had a couple of our forwards out and that was a factor at the set piece. We’ve got them back this time so it will be a battle, no doubts.
“They know what to do when they cross the white line and they know how to do it. We’re pretty tight … we’re not a team of stars, we’re strong as a unit. When everyone does their job, that’s when we create space.”