Mounties achieve triple feat
As far as impressive feats go, Mounties achieving Minor Premiership status in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, the Ron Massey Cup, and the Sydney Shield for the 2016 season is a truly remarkable club-wide effort.
Not since the St George Dragons in 1985 has a club topped the table in all three grades, highlighting the significance of the achievement.
The feat is a testament to the players and staff, who work around the clock to ensure the supporters on their home turf - primarily Aubrey Keech Reserve – are on show to watch an entertaining yet successful brand of Rugby League that has worked for the Mount Pritchard club this season.
Their affiliation with the Canberra Raiders has been a huge success for both parties, something that Mounties' Sydney Shield player, Tere Glassie, is reaping the benefit from.
"The amalgamation with both ourselves and Canberra has worked better than it ever has," explained Glassie to NSWRL.com.au.
"I think with the amount of guys that have come back and fourth, we're able to stick tight and together, but we have a core group in each grade."
You don't have to dig too far into the Mounties club to notice the positive culture that glows through the players, irrespective of which grade they're playing in.
Lining up for the NSWRL's Captains Call, a player from each grade, plus Intrust Super Premiership NSW coach, Steve Antonelli, were thoroughly enjoying each other's company, and were happy to stitch each other up whilst they participated in interviews.
"You can see [how close we are] here today, all of us carrying on like lunatics, it's good fun," said Ron Massey Cup representative, John Kennedy.
"At Mounties, all of the older boys set a standard and all of the younger blokes are pretty good at carrying that culture through.
"There is a good culture, really good vibes and good people at here. We are Minor Premiers, I'm always grateful because it's been a good year."
The Intrust Super Premiership NSW grade secured the Minor Premiership with two weeks remaining, and ultimately eight competition points clear of the second placed Illawarra Cutters.
Did they take the foot off the accelerator at any stage? Of course they did not, and this is despite the fact they have now lost their captain and halfback, Sam Williams, to NRL thanks to the injury of Blake Austin.
Thanks to the club-wide depth, however, Will Mataka has full confidence in any player that is required to step up for the top grade, purely because it has worked for them in the past.
"Last week we had two new combinations in the halves and we managed to come away with a win," said Mataka.
"We've had a few players in and out, especially in the halves, but I think it comes down to the boys stepping up to the plate when they're asked to.
"I guess it all depends on what Canberra's doing, cause they're obviously having a strong finish to the season, so whatever players they send back, same thing goes as usual, we'll just shuffle players where they need to be put in.
"It's not normally until Thursday when we find out what's going on, but I think we've shuffled well this year putting players in different competitions."
Glassie shares Mataka's sentiments on the lack of concern on shuffling players between grades due to the incredible depth that Mounties possess, and because of the hard work the players have put in this year that they are now being rewarded for.
"We've got a lot of guys moving between each grade as well, which can be a bit disruptive at times, but I guess with the way the season have gone with all three teams as well as the Raiders," Glassie said.
"I guess that's just how the season works, but it's not every day where you take out the minor premiership in three grades, and luckily enough we have this year, which is pretty rewarding."
Whether it is a positive or a negative is yet to be determined, but the recent success of Mounties has meant they've had a target on their head this year, and will do for seasons in the future.
Teams will step up to the occasion, they know they will be taking on the strongest team in their competition who are a part of the strongest club, and Glassie thrives on the challenge, starting with Belrose this week.
"Mounties, being as popular as we are, they always want to knock us off and I don't think that's going to be any different come this weekend and in weeks to come," Glassie explained.
"It's been the case all during the season. We've got Belrose this week, and regardless of past results, anything can happen in semi-final football and we're expecting the best out of them."
The Ron Massey Cup side will take on competition fresh-faces, St Marys, and Kennedy is ready to take on such an unpredictable side.
"We've got St Marys, I know they've got some big powerful men and they'll have a dig,' said Kennedy.
"There's always things you can improve on but we'll just work on ourselves and the smaller things as usual and get it done, hopefully."
While the club will be extremely proud of their minor-premiership achievement, the road to the premiership trifecta goal begins this week. In what could be a bad omen for the club, all three Minor Premiership-winning St George sides of 1985 were pipped at the post; they lost all three Grand Finals, with the Roy Masters-coached first grade side defeated 7-6 by Canterbury-Bankstown.
This year, there is no reason Mounties can't go one better, and Mataka had no hesitation in crediting everyone involved, summing up what Mounties' culture is all about.
"I think it shows how strong we are as a club, the staff as well, not just the players but there's a broad group of people with good talent."
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au