Central North Rugby: Walcha chasing grand final redemption against Pirates

Captain courageous: Walcha skipper Will Fletcher looks to give Gunnedah's Matt Roseby the brush-off during last week's preliminary final win. On Saturday he'll lead the Rams onto the grand final stage.

Captain courageous: Walcha skipper Will Fletcher looks to give Gunnedah's Matt Roseby the brush-off during last week's preliminary final win. On Saturday he'll lead the Rams onto the grand final stage.

Pain can serve as a great motivator.

So it will be for Walcha as they strive to end a 20-year premiership drought at Ken Chillingworth Oval on Saturday.

It’s a position the Rams haven’t been in since 2012 when they were beaten in heart-breaking fashion by the side they will face on Saturday - Pirates. Leading 16-8 at half-time, the Rams came within six minutes of their first premiership since 1997.

The pain of that still lingers and is spurring the Rams on, with skipper Will Fletcher remarking that they “have a lot to prove”.

He is one of a handful of the current side that played five years ago. Then 24 he was one of the babies of the pack.

Now their “fearless leader”, Fletcher will have the privilege of leading his beloved Rams out for their first grand final in five years.

Running out at six in 2012, Fletcher has since shifted to the back of the scrum, where in the words of Rams president Andrew Crawford he “leads by example with his fierce defence and hard-ball running inspiring his teammates”.

Fletcher said they took a lot of lessons out of 2012 – their first decider in 15 years – about what it takes to win a grand final.

“Discipline is number one. Your structure has to be impeccable for the full 80 minutes and you need the one percenters to go your way,” he said.

You also need good depth, which the Rams have.

“It’s not a 15-man side it’s a 25-man side,” Fletcher said. “We don’t feel disadvantaged by anyone we bring on. We feel it is a boost. We probably learnt that in 2012. We probably ran out of legs.”

They go in as underdogs but know they’ve got the arsenal to beat Pirates.

A lot will rest on Fletcher and his fellow eight, and he spoke about the pack taking the pressure on at the start and trying to create space for what he described as “a pretty special backline”.

“Speed is something you can’t teach and speed is the hardest thing to stop.” he said. 

Saturday’s match marks possibly the last time a few Rams players run out in the red and white. Fletcher indicated he will “probably shut up shop”.

If he does, he hopes it’s as the first Walcha captain to hold aloft the Heath Shield in two decades.