Despite speculation that all Group 9 finals matches would be played at McDonalds Park this season, the Tumut Blues will get home ground advantage at Twickenham on Sunday.
After doing away with Gundagai at Anzac Park on Saturday, the Blues have booked a mouth-watering return bout with the Tigers, with the winner progressing through to the end of season decider.
A bumper day of rugby league awaits Twickenham, with all first and second placed teams playing off for a position in their respective grand finals.
Group 9 Operations Manager Bob Hay said the Group 9 committee did consider playing all finals at Wagga due to Covid-19, before sticking with their current format.
Hay said it was now up to individual clubs to make sure Covid-19 guidelines were adhered too, especially with so many different teams visiting.
“The issue will be that these clubs will have a lot more teams playing, and they might be under scrutiny of the police a little bit more,” Hay said.
“They are going to have to manage entry points at the gate and tally who is in and who is out. From a Group 9 perspective nothing much changes, we are just asking the lower grades to get in, play and get out.”
Group 9 will do their part to limit crowds by live streaming all semi-finals on social media.
“We are trying to help mitigate people attending, as the games will be livestreamed on the Facebook,” Hay said.
“We are just asking people that don’t need to be there, stay at home and watch the live stream.”
Blues president Bryan Black acknowledged that Twickenham may be under the watchful eyes of Group 9 and NSWRL on Sunday, but said the club was already putting extra procedures in place to accommodate a bustling crowd.
“I am hoping common sense will prevail. We want people to come and support their team, but at the same time, just do what they are asked to do,” Black said.
“There is going to be stringent rules for the service of alcohol, and we have a plan to have steel terrace seats on the (Madigan) hill, so people aren’t standing.
“I know the boys and people won’t like that, but we have to do what we can.”
Black conceded that it was a disappointing situation to have to control a crowd, for what will be one of the most highly anticipated Group 9 contests in recent years.
“Financially, it will hurt us a little bit. It could have been a massive money spinner for the club and a lot of people would have wanted to come down and watch,” Black said.
The Tigers and Blues will have to pick themselves up after a gruelling local derby at Anzac Park on Saturday, won 20-18 by the Blues to end a 10-year losing run at the ground.
Undefeated in the shortened eight-round 2020 season, Tumut’s victory secured the club its first minor premiership since 2008.
Co-coach Lachlan Bristow said the minor premiership was “awesome” and the home ground advantage that came with it “huge”, noting the team was likely to be bolstered by the return of absent stars such as Adam Pearce and Jacob Toppin, who missed Saturday’s derby.
Bristow was proud of his side’s tenacity in the final round outing, after they fell behind early.
“It was brutal, probably everything we expected,” he said. “We were up for it though.
“A bit of momentum went their way early, we weathered it. We knew it would turn.”
Tigers coach Adam Perry wasn’t deterred by the result and kept the loss in perspective heading into next week’s rematch in the major semi-final.
“It was a pretty tight game, obviously the score line showed that. It was a little bit disappointing, but at the same time, it could have gone either way,” Perry said.
“We’ll be back next week and ready to go again. It was a good team performance but we just need to be a little bit better.”
Sunday’s semi-finals to be played at Twickenham
Sullivan Cup: Junee v Yenda
Weissel Cup: Kangaroos v Brothers
Leaguetag: Young v Kangaroos
Reserve grade: Young v Gundagai
First grade: Tumut v Gundagai