AT the start of 2013, Orange Hawks unveiled a couple of pieces they hoped would help complete the two blues’ puzzle.
They were two fairly sizeable pieces as well.
Former French international Arty Shead and Group 10 firebrand Terawhiti Cooper signed on with the club, aiming to fill a front-row void that had largely hindered Hawks’ hopes at premiership glory over the last 10 years.
It was a gamble of sorts.
Aside from new captain-coach in Tim Mortimer, the two props were the club’s biggest signings in a throw-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket recruitment drive.
The move, in hindsight, was the right one.
Shead has been a monster up front for Hawks and success seems to follow Cooper. He has played in the last three Group 10 grand finals with CYMS before lifting the two blues to their first premier league decider in a decade.
There’s not a better one-two punch up front in 2013 and the Shead-Cooper combination will play a deciding role in tomorrow’s game.
Shead, a 35-year-old New Zealand native, was “pumped” for his first Group 10 grand final and admitted his maiden year in the competition had been “very interesting.”
“Coming over to Group 10 footy after playing overseas, I’ve been quite surprised,” Shead said.
Not prepared to label his initial thoughts on the competition as easy, what’s surprised Shead the most is the physical nature of the premiership.
“I’m 35 now, I’m starting to feel those bumps and bruises a bit more,” he laughed, before down-playing his impact on the side this season.
“Rugby league is a collective sport and it helps having a few big boppers. Full credit to everyone at Hawks though, it’s been a really big team effort from all the players to everyone on the board,”
Minor premiers for the first time since 1999, Hawks have been the best side all season.
The two blues dropped just two games throughout the regular season and, impressively, recorded three wins from three games against CYMS and defeated premiers Lithgow at Wade Park - not a bad record against last year’s grand finalists.
Shead believes his side’s biggest hurdle to coming away with the spoils tomorrow could prove to be the men in blue themselves.
“I think our main goal is just focusing on ourselves,” he said.
“If everyone stands up we’ll do well. The boys are pumped. All the hype with CYMS and Hawks, I think everyone is on cloud nine at the moment.”