Before the Blues and Tigers do battle at Twickenham on Sunday, all eyes will be on the Group 9 elimination final at McDonalds on Saturday, with Wagga Brothers hosting the Young Cherrypickers.
The winner of this match will then play the loser of Sunday’s preliminary final, with the winner then earning the right to play in the 2020 decider.
When asked who he had as the winner of Saturday’s fixture, Blues co-captain/coach Dean Bristow was quick to select the Young Cherrypickers, who have found some form in the back of the season after picking up former NRL star Josh McCrone.
“To be honest, it would have to be Young; they have played into a little bit of form with their home ground advantage and playing the teams they have played,” Bristow said.
“They have a good team on paper and they should be playing some good footy.”
Regardless of who wins the game, Bristow believed the loser of the Blues and Tigers match will face a tough outing the following weekend.
“Whoever loses and has to play next week will be in for a tough match, they are two good sides and once you get to finals, it’s a brand-new competition and anything can happen,” Bristow said.
Brothers front rower Hayden Philp said all the pressure is on the Young Cherrypickers tomorrow afternoon at McDonalds Park, with the Brethren flying under the radar.
“We have the underdogs tag and we don’t mind that,” Philp said.
“I definitely know that I love it and the other boys are keen to go out and prove we are a force to be reckoned with this year.”
Brothers were good this season, knocking off Young, Southcity, Junee and Kangaroos twice, but failed against Gundagai and Tumut, which has resulted in some Group 9 pundits questioning their place in the top four.
Young on the other hand have won three on the trot and loom as a tough task for the Wagga side.
“We have played well but we haven’t shown that against Tumut and Gundagai, and they probably played their best games against us,” Philp said.
“Young will be tough but we have the team to beat them.”
The bullocking bookend said Brothers would take a lot out of their 38-16 win over Roos last Saturday and were confident of getting the job done against an in-form Pickers.
“We are looking good and everyone is pretty confident. That win from last week really helped,” Philp said.
“We were in the grind for 20 minutes but switched on after that and earned a good win and it will be more of a confidence thing having beaten them and knowing we have the side to beat them again.”
Josh McCrone, who has taken the reins of the Pickers after a season ending injury to Ben Picker, said it was good to finish the season strongly, but reiterated finals was a completely different ball game.
“It was good to finish with three wins and I suppose it gives us some momentum and confidence, but we are looking at finals as a totally new competition,” McCrone said.
McCrone didn’t want to focus on his game either, and said the form turnaround wasn’t because of him, but because the entire Young squad was playing their part leading into Saturday’s elimination final against Brothers.
“I am playing my role, but it is the whole team’s responsibility to do their job and I think the boys have a fair bit of confidence now,” McCrone said.
The Temora product did touch on the unique nature of the Cherrypickers squad, that has a good mix of travellers and locals.
“It’s a bit of a strange mix with the travellers and locals, but everyone seems to get along really well and I’m enjoying my time with them,” McCrone said.
As far as Saturday’s elimination final against Brothers, McCrone said he would be treating the game like any other.
“There are a few consequences out of Saturday’s game but at the end of the day, it is 80 minutes of football on a field that is 100m long,” McCrone said.
“We will go out there to win just like any other game.”