At 4.00 pm tomorrow afternoon, on the Quatre Carreres ground in Valencia, the best of Madrid and Valencia will face each other yet again, when Custodians Getafe take on Tigres Torrent in the fourth AERL Grand Final.
Having already met twice in finals this year – Custodians taking the Supercopa back to the capital and Tigres winning the Challenge Cup – the two teams came together a fortnight ago in a thriller, last regular-season match-up in Madrid where Custodians edged home 42-32.
It is the Custodians’ third Grand Final in as many years, having won one and lost one. “We have never gone into a final as favourites,” noted their coach, Juanlu Mudarra, “and this will be no different, but we have every intention of creating an upset.
“We know it will be a very tough match, with little room for error and opponents who have everything in front of them. However, we do know how to beat them and we are travelling to Valencia with just that intention.”
Aitor Dàvila, player/coach for the Tigres cannot wait for the match to start. “I feel that this final has arrived at just the right time for us,” he said.
“The guys have made a real effort throughout the three years we have been together and the fruits of that labour are clearly visible in our game right now. Custodians are a big rival. It is always a pleasure to play against a team of their ability and standing, with the likes of Toni Puerta, Dani Moreno and Tity Fouteu in their ranks. But our lads have a good understanding of the game and I am confident they will put in a solid performance no matter what the outcome.”
In the build up to this game, a number of the most talented young players attended an U21s national camp in Carlet, where, as well as playing in an opposed match they were involved in four practical sessions. There were also physical preparation and nutrition seminars from national team trainer, Tony Palacios, and a mental preparation workshop with psychologist, Diego Ruano.
“You spend a lot more time with your team mates here which means you get to know them all a lot better,” noted Tigres player, Dani Morales.
“I feel that is key, because it is reflected later on when you’re on the field together. It also gives you a chance to draw more from the coaching staff, because although there is a great deal of information to take on-board throughout the camp, be it technical, tactical or something that has come up in a theory session, they are easily available to help out.”
New addition, Fran Garcia from Custodians also saw significant benefit. “A great experience with great team mates,” he said, “all of whom are working towards a single goal with the same passion.”
In closing the camp, U21s head coach Andrew Pilkington declared himself happy with the overall performance and focus of the players involved. “We were able to get through an enormous amount of work in less than 48 hours,” he said. “That is thanks to the attitude and commitment of both the players and the staff involved. These guys have set a standard for the group and we hope that can build a solid pathway to our future as a sport.”