Three Cessnock teams still in the hunt for spots in grand finals

Cessnock's finals momentum is building like a freight train going down a hill with the Goannas just one stop from the grand final.

After just making the finals, the Goannas defeated South Newcastle 32-28 on Saturday, after accounting for Maitland first up, and face Central Newcastle in this Sunday's preliminary final for a spot against Western Suburbs in the grand final.

The Goannas first grade team will have their reserve grade and under-19 teams as company at St John Oval this Sunday. The Goannas reserve grade face South Newcastle and the under-19s take on Wests after both lost their major semi-finals on Sunday.

The Butcher Boys get to cash in their second chance in first grade after being smashed 50-10 by Wests.

"We've got a real challenge against Central this week. They are a proud club and will be hurting after being beaten like that, we went through it., they've been through it twice so they know exactly what it's like," Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said.

"I don't think it will affect them too much, they will be up for it."

Edwards said he was delighted with his side's performance against Souths, particularly in the first 40 minutes which led to a 22-6 lead at half-time.

"The first 40 was really clinical I was really happy with them. Overall a really good performance, really polished. We played with good control, we did a lot things good.

"It was disappointing to concede the try just before half-time. The boys still reckon he knocked it on and on the replay it looks like it as well."

Souths scored the first two tries after the break to reduce the margin to four points but the Goannas held their own from there to run out 32-28 winners.

"We held on, showed a lot of resilience again which we've been doing for a while," Edwards said.

"It makes you a hard footy team to beat if you can find that resilience in defence every week."

The first 40 was really clinical I was really happy with them.

Todd Edwards

The Goannas have not lost since copping a huge spray from Edwards for their 57-0 loss to Wests in round 15, beating South Newcastle twice and Maitland in the three games since.

"I might have gone over the top a little bit, but footballers are proud and one thing they don't like is having their integrity questioned," Edwards said.

"We had plenty of blues over that game. I just thought at times there was a lack of defensive resolve.

"I questioned how much it meant to them. Since then defensively our resolve has been very good.

"We are turning sides away a lot, we've got a lot of movement in defence. Hopefully we can continue that for the next two weeks."

The Goannas attack has also flourished with Edwards saying patience was the key factor.

"It's taken a while, but we're playing with a bit more patience which helps," he said. "Patience equals pressure and pressure equals points.

"It's the three Ps. That's what we are starting to do and do well."

Edwards said the pressure was all on Wests to win the grand final from now on.

"We've still got a tough game this week, we've got to get through another hurdle before we play Wests who everyone has been tipping to win the title since Christmas," he said. "There's no pressure on us or Central. Whoever gets through next week, we're just the support act.

"It's a good place to be in a grand final if things get tight. If things do get tight and there's score board pressure funny things can happen."

Edwards said he was very happy with the performance of his squad over the past three weeks, but saved special mention for five of his most experienced campaigners in Brendan Hlad, Steve Waetford, Scott Briggs, Dan Metcalfe and Josh Charles.

"Brendan is an exceptional athlete. To play in the middle of the field and do the stuff he does for the time he has played and still be consistent is amazing.

"There is very little difference between his best and worst performance and that is about just how consistent he is.

"He has been huge for us. He has been our best forward for three or four years he is just consistently good.

"Steve is a professional, the kids love playing with him, he is a real leader. He is one of the best leaders I've ever seen as far as a captain goes.

"He has a lot of respect in the club, a lot of respect among the players. There was no secret we missed him when he hurt his elbow at Kurri. He missed six games and we didn't win too many.

"We're a lot better side when he is on the park.

"Scott Briggs has been a terrific addition to the club, you forget at times he has only played six games.

"He has been there and done it as far as finals go. The same with Josh Charles and Dan Metcalf who have been invaluable for us at this time of year."

Wests first grade, reserve grade and open grade teams are all in the grand final, which will be held at McDonald Jones Stadium on September 22.

Wests 38 defeated Cessnock 10 in the reserve grade major semi-final. The Goannas now play Souths in the preliminary final.

Kurri Kurri play Maitland in the open grade preliminary and Cessnock under-19s play Wests.