When the Queanbeyan Blues run out on to Seiffert Oval in 2016, they will be faced with one of the greatest challenges in rugby league.
No team has won three straight Grand Finals in the Canberra competition since West Belconnen in 1989-91, but that is exactly what Simon Woolford’s men will be looking to achieve.
There is no doubting the fact that it is a tough ask following the retirements of veterans Marc Herbert, Trevor Thurling, Scott Rutland, and Ben Nicoll – but the Blues wasted no time in bolstering their playing stocks for 2016.
The club has secured the signatures of former Young Cherrypickers captain-coach Luke Branighan and a pair of Cootamundra Bulldogs in backrower Luke Berkrey and hooker Shannon Rupapere.
But whether or not the seventeen-man squad can climb the mountain for a third year in a row is a different question.
The loss of halves pairing Herbert and Nicoll is a massive blow to the reigning premiers, but the additions of former NRL half Branighan and ex-Queensland Cup rake Rupapere will help their cause.
The biggest hindrance in the Blues’ title defence may be what stopped them from clinching the elusive third consecutive premiership in years gone by.
Call it motivation if you will, but finding that extra little bit of effort on the grand stage can be overwhelming if you have already reached the pinnacle before.
Look at it this way: in a stretch of nine straight Grand Final appearances for the Blues from 1998 to 2006, the words “Queanbeyan United” were etched on to the premiership trophy just four times. Only once did they win two in a row.
Elite-level footballers find it just as hard to get over the line – nobody has even gone back-to-back in the professional domain since Brisbane in 1992-93 (excluding Brisbane’s 1997 Super League triumph).
Having said all that, the Blues are a proud club that may still boast the best roster in the competition. And Simon Woolford is so competitive that he would play Space Invaders to the death, suggesting that the Blues have the right man at the helm if they are to create history.
ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR YABBAGURU (link to follow)