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With all the media hype surrounding the NRL play off game between the NZ Warriors and the Bulldogs this weekend, little has been mentioned in New Zealand of the Grand Finals to be played this Sunday at Ericsson Stadium.
The first game with the kick off time of 12.30pm is the Mad Butcher Fox Memorial final between last year's winner, the Hibiscus Coast Raiders, and the Mangere East Hawks. Last year's final was an absolute thriller and this year's final promises more of the same.
The final of the Bartercard Cup competition kicks off at 2.30pm. With Jerome Ropati travelling to Sydney to be with the NZ Warriors, Marist Richmond Brothers may be down a little on fire power. After their exciting win last week against the defending champions Mt Albert Lions, the Brothers side will go into the final on Sunday with just that extra bit of confidence knowing they can turn it up when it counts.
Canterbury Bulls, the minor champions after all the rounds, had a well deserved break last weekend to recharge the batteries. After their defeat of Marist two weeks ago, the Bulls side know they can go onto to win.
The difference between then and now, is the game is to be in Auckland, not Christchurch. So although they are the minor champions, the Canterbury side will not have the home advantage.
And for that reason alone, I think the Marist Richmond side will win if they can remain focused for the full 80 minutes and not fall away as in last week's game against the Lions.
No matter who wins on Sunday, NZ rugby league has shown once again through the Bartercard Cup competition just the depth of talent that is available in this country.
Mad Butcher Fox Memorial Grand Final:
Mangere East Hawks vs Hibiscus Coast Raiders, Ericsson Stadium, Sunday 14/09/2003. Kick off at 12:30pm
Bartercard Cup Grand Final:
Canterbury Bulls vs Marist Richmond Brothers, Ericsson Stadium, Sunday 14/09/03. Kick off at 2:30pm
Marist Richmond Brothers: J. Tiavale, H. Kapi, R. Henry, S. Makisi, F. Prescott, J. Ropati, G. Rota, T. Taua?, T. Esera, E. Tuimavave, H. Turua (Capt) , K. Guttenbeil, S. Lavea (reserves) K. Cawdron, J. Kellet, E. Leavai, D. Wilson. Coach - Bernie Perenara
Canterbury Bulls: L. Sione, E. HeiHei, J. Taipari, S. Wallace, R. Hanson, A. Harris, J. O'Brien, V. Whare, S. Beyers (Capt), A. Timo, C. Lawrie, S. Norton, T. Wallace, (reserves) C. Newton, J. Clarke, K. Ferris, T. Pelenise. Coach - Phil Prescott / Brent Stuart