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Illawarra Mercury

Underdogs!

Author: By GLENN TOBIN
Date: 26/09/1998
Words: 690
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Sport
Page: 80
Canterbury has been insulted, written off and told on the street they cannot possibly win tomorrow's National Rugby League grand final.

In a two-horse race, the bookies have turned on them too, posting the opposition Brisbane Broncos at unbackable odds while handing Canterbury juicy figures of 3/1.

To the uneducated, the result appears sealed before a ball is kicked.

But Canterbury has endured this underdog role before.

One of Canterbury's all-time greats, Terry Lamb, says the blind eye of the general public is enough to lift his beloved side to victory.

Lamb knows all about motivation and its intimate relationship with season deciders. There has to be a backbone to hunger.

Last time Canterbury was in the big one, Lamb himself was the source of inspiration for his team-mates.

He is not on field now, being the coach of the Canterbury Presidents Cup grand final side battling Parramatta earlier in the day.

But he has always been in the centre of preparations and admits he and the players were somewhat insulted that Canterbury had been shelved, after brilliantly coming through the playoffs against considerable odds.

``We are playing against Brisbane and I guess people have to be a bit realistic (in betting)," Lamb said.

``But we have been written off for every game since before the Illawarra game (last round of the regular season). They said we could not make the semis and we did.

``We have showed a lot of people what we can do and they are still writing us off. The big thing is, all of these blokes ... the young ones and the experienced ... they believe in themselves.

``They don't care what anyone says. We are all about never give up, never say die. That is what all of our players will take onto the field."

Lamb recalls well the 1995 grand final.

It was almost identical to this year.

Manly was the foe, chock-full of internationals and everyone was on the Sea Eagles.

Canterbury was there, but few backed the Bulldogs for the victory lap. In the end, it was the Dogs' day.

But Lamb says this decider is not about finals. Rather, it is the beginning of a new era which next season sees the arrival of superstars Ricky Stuart and Brad Clyde from Canberra and the return of Darren Smith from the Broncos.

``I really think the new era thing is a great motivation for everyone," he said.

``As I said, everyone is writing the boys off, but we have got six or eight players who have been there in 1995.

``There are also a lot of younger blokes who have played under me this year and are the future of the club.

``Brisbane are red-hot favourite. But they have a lot of players who have been around for a while.

``Our young blokes are now looking to the future and they like being underdogs.

``I think you will see them all stand up on Sunday."

If anything, Canterbury would probably be looked upon more favourably by the punting public if Lamb was on deck.

He relished this scenario.

He was a player who lifted the average team-mate to excellence and inspired a team to its peak. It is hard sitting on the sidelines watching it all unfold, and he admits to that knot in his gut telling him he should be out there.

But if he was, what would he do to topple Brisbane?

``I know what these blokes are going through. I would just try and keep everyone relaxed," he said.

``In the game, it is all about playing your own game of football. You only worry about yourselves.

``Brisbane can worry about themselves and hopefully we will worry them in the game.

``But no matter what anyone says, this will be a close one. Canterbury simply cannot be written off. The pressure is more on Brisbane than us.

``They are under immense pressure."

Both teams will start as per selected tomorrow.

 
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