David Polkinghorne August 25, 2012
Waratahs-bound Cam Crawford is hoping to leave Canberra on a positive note in the John I Dent Cup. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Pat Leafa will go into today's semi-final against the Western District Lions at Viking Park full of confidence after winning this year's MacDougall Medal.
The Tuggeranong Vikings hooker continued his club's dominance of the John I Dent Cup best-and-fairest award last night - it's the third time a Viking has taken home the medal in the past four seasons.
Dan McKellar was coach of the year after his Vikings team lost just one game, but it has been pushed in recent weeks.
McKellar felt it was the best way to enter the finals.
''It was a good game last week [against Gungahlin], it was perfect for what we needed going into the semis - a tight game where we had to grind out a win against a good side,'' he said.
While Wests and Vikings play for a spot in the grand final, it's even bigger for Wests inside centre James McAuliffe in his run-on debut for the Lions.
He's had a meteoric rise through the grades, starting the year out in the fourths.
Wests coach Craig Robberds said it wouldn't faze McAuliffe.
''He's got a pretty strong background in league, he was playing first grade for Woden and is mates with one of our lower-grade coaches and he dragged him along,'' Robberds said.
The other semi, a knockout game between Gungahlin Eagles and the Queanbeyan Whites, will be played at Viking Park tomorrow.
Cam Crawford was released by the ACT Brumbies and will join the NSW Waratahs - but not until Gungahlin's finals run ends, which he's hoping is after winning the John I Dent Cup.
Limited opportunities with the Brumbies forced Crawford to return to his native Sydney.
And he's being replaced on the Brumbies list by comeback kid Clyde Rathbone.
For Crawford it's not about being forced out by Rathbone, it's about moving to the Waratahs for more opportunities.
''I don't even see it like that, whatever moves [the Brumbies want] to make is completely up to them,'' Crawford said.
''I'm happy with whatever they do, but Clyde Rathbone is a pretty good name to bring into the squad.''
Whites coach Wayne Southwell said it was an extremely even competition, where all four teams remaining could win it.
It's a sentiment other coaches have echoed.
And if the Whites can force their way into the grand final, which they've done from fourth before, Southwell was predicting a return of the legendary 'chainsaw', a tribute to speedster Jamie Marmont.
''If we're there in two weeks' time we might have to resurrect it,'' he said with a laugh.
''It's actually a really good thing, it's just a lot of fun … like the old days when you'd park your cars on the ground and the horns would go.''