Avoiding an embarrassing exit from the Group 9 finals should be motivation enough for Tumut when they play the Young Cherrypickers at Anzac Park on Sunday.
Tumut, who were undefeated during the 2020 regular season, lost to Gundagai 8-6 in their preliminary final on Sunday and are now faced with a sudden-death semi-final scenario against the Pickers.
Blues co-captain/coach Dean Bristow didn’t beat around the bush when discussing the game and acknowledged Tumut were either one game away from a grand final against Gundagai the following weekend or mad Monday.
“It’s pretty obvious we want and need to win. If we lose this weekend the season is over,” Bristow said.
“You put in all that hard work and you don’t want to drop out early, especially being the defending premiers.”
Bristow said he wasn’t focusing on who would line-up for Young this week or Gundagai next week, and instead shifted the focus onto beating the opposition one week at a time.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about who we are playing, it doesn’t matter who they put in front of us, we need to beat them to win competition,” Bristow said.
Tumut won’t know the make-up of their squad until tonight’s training session, and with the exception of suspended players, Tumut hopes to be full strength.
“Hopefully everyone is back,” Bristow said. “We will see how we go Friday night; I would say more than likely everyone would be back on deck.”
Despite facing the daunting prospect of playing an in-form Young, who have won their last four after the acquisition of former NRL star Josh McCrone, an upbeat Bristow was looking to take the positives out of Sunday’s tough loss to Gundagai.
“There is a lot of positives to find, a few things didn’t go our way and after the way that we played on the weekend and to only get beat two points was really good,” Bristow said.
“It highlighted a few areas we need to improve and we will work on that this week but we are faring well and we are up for it this weekend.”
Tumut will have the upper hand mentally when they play Young on Sunday though, with the Blues having belted the Cherrypickers 40-12 in round three.
Young coach Nick Hall said their round three loss had taught the playing group a lot about what style of rugby league they would need to play if they were to beat Tumut this weekend.
“We hadn’t played a team like that before we played Gundagai and Tumut. That doggedness that Tumut and Gundagai demonstrated was across the park and something we really took on board,” Hall said.
Hall explained Young would need to match, if not better Tumut in the middle third of the field, and had full confidence in his big guys who have been playing well in recent weeks.
“We need to match them in the middle, our forwards are underrated; they might not be as big and athletic but they can hold their own,” Hall said.
“My middle men are playing good footy; they are playing well.”
Hall didn’t think he would need to motivate his players too much either, suggesting his forward pack’s experience would shine through in the contest.
“You always challenge your middle to hold their own and we are coming up against one of the two best packs in the comp,” Hall said.
“There are no trick shots with these guys, there is plenty of experience and a few old wise heads and they will acknowledge their jobs and challenge themselves to do it.”
The Cherrypickers coach didn’t think it would be easy for either side on Sunday, indicating Young would need to do everything right against an uncompromising Tumut defence.
“Their defence knows how to organise themselves and they shift off and number up and we need to have creativity and punch in and around the middle and get early ball to our big outside backs,” Hall said.
Blues line up: 1. Parish Bellette 2. Connor Massen, 3. Brayden Draber 4. Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai, 5. Matt Richards, 6. Dean Bristow, 7. Jordan Anderson, 8. Zac Masters, 9. Jacob Toppin, 10. Jed Pearce, 11. Adam Pearce, 12. Michael Fenn, 13. Lewis Arragon, 14. Tommy Jeffery, 15. Austin McDougall, 16. Matt Byatt, 17. Jacob McGrath.
Cherrypickers line up: 1. Nic Hall, 2. John Grant, 3. Kye Tiederman, 4. Tom Jenkins, 5. Jake Veney, 6. Matt Murray, 7. Josh McCrone, 8. Inoke Vunipola, 9. Michael Picker, 10. Mick Dodson, 11. Joe Picker, 12. Jayke Hogan, 13. Blake Hewitt, 14. Jesse Corcoran, 15. Kyle Richens, 16. Josh Ayers, 17. Jahnayah Freeman