In a year that has been testing to say the least, Tumut could do with some good luck on Sunday when their Blues, who are shooting for back-to-back Group 9 titles, take on the Gundagai Tigers in the 2020 decider.
The region that was swept by the ferocious Dunns Road bushfire at the start of the year, was left to sort through the ashes, before many residents and local communities were further financially and socially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With both calamities firmly in the rear-view mirror, but still close to the heart of many that were impacted, the Blues will hope to give the town and their supporters something to smile about on Sunday.
Premiership winning centre Brayden Draber, explained just what it would mean to him, his family and the region if the Blues could lift the trophy once again.
“It would mean everything; sport is always big and people want us to win, but after everything that happened this year, it would be a big boost for the town and the locals,” Draber said.
A town steeped in rugby league history would also love going back-to-back for the first time since 2007 and 2008, especially if it meant beating arch-rivals, Gundagai.
“It would be great; it’s always great to win one but going back-to-back would be amazing and an awesome feeling for the club and for myself, especially if we could do it against Gundagai,” Draber said.
Draber acknowledged he was a member of the new generation of Blues that would need to guide the club into the future, regardless of Sunday’s result.
“I think it’s always good to have a winning first grade team and strong older grades, because when you are young you look up to them, and it would be great to lead them in the right direction,” Draber said.
In what will be a side-act to an already enthralling Group 9 grand final, Draber will be marking up on Matt Lyons, with the pair regarded by many as the competition’s best centres.
“I love the challenge; I think Matty is a really good player and I enjoy going up against him and I like the task of handling him,” Draber said.
“I think it’s been pretty even between us, but it is always a tough gig coming up against a player as talented as Matty and I’m going to have to be at my best and will have to play a full 80-minute game.”
Another Tumut Minor League product and premiership winning player looking to help Tumut to victory is the hard-working, Tommy Jeffery.
Jeffery played limited minutes in the 2019 decider, but was driven this year due to his increased workload and responsibility in a star-studded forward pack.
“After the year we’ve had, it would be massive to bring home the trophy,” Jeffery said.
“Especially for me, playing a bigger role this year; I only played a minor role last year after injuring my shoulder half way through the year and I was never quite right after I came back.”
The 22-year-old, who has been huge in Tumut’s engine room, outputting big minutes and a heavy workload, said he still looked up to such an experienced and talented pack that boasts a handful of high-level representative players.
“I definitely look up to them all, even the two fellas in Bobby (Jacob Sturt) and Fenny (Michael Fenn), who are younger than me; they are quality players who have gone far in rugby league and they are great blokes to be around,” Jeffery said.
“It’s awesome to be involved with such a good team, especially with so many of them being locals.”
Jeffery agreed with Draber, and also had one eye on the future, acknowledging he and Draber, along with the likes of Lewis Arragon, Parish Bellette and Zac Masters, had a responsibility to usher through the next generation of first graders.
“Hopefully all these blokes can stick around and become that senior group of players that haven’t been around until Dean and Adam came back,” Jeffery said.
“We missed that for a lot of years in that period in between premierships and if we do things right, we won’t have to push those young fellas in too early, so we can help guide them in and make them long-time first graders themselves.”
A win on Sunday would mean the world for the Blues, and would certainly have this current squad right up there with the great Tumut teams from over the years.