When the Tumut Blues take on the Gundagai Tigers on Sunday, it is hard to look past the impending war for the middle third of the field.
Two truly dominant forward packs are set to do battle, with Tumut boasting the likes of Zac Masters, Jed Pearce, Michael Fenn, Jacob Sturt and Adam Pearce, while Gundagai call on Luke Berkrey, Joel Field, Jake Elphick, Royce Tout and Aisea Taholo.
2018 Weissel medallist Zac Masters, who will be leading the Blues charge, is excited by the contest ahead.
“It’s going to be an awesome challenge for us as a side, it will be a physical game and we are prepared and know what’s coming,” Masters said.
“We have a very good forward pack and so does Gundagai, and whoever wins that battle in the middle, will go a long way to winning the game.”
Masters said it was an adjustment playing in this year’s Blues pack, with so many big names a part of the 2020 squad.
“It’s different, but it’s definitely made it a lot more enjoyable, especially having those big boys around; we are able to play off each other,” Masters said.
“It’s added that extra dimension to our side too, and created a few more opportunities for players out wide.”
As far as his own game and preparation for the grand final, Masters wasn’t changing a winning recipe.
“Speaking for myself, I’ve had that experience and you sort of know what the week involves and how the game will play out,” Masters said.
“I wouldn’t improve anything, instead enjoy the whole process and take it all in; it’s a quick process, so I need to cherish every moment and enjoy it.”
The Country Rugby League representative and premiership-winning front rower won’t be overplaying his hand either, and said consistency was his highest priority.
“I will just be doing my job as best I can; leading from the front and setting a good platform for the rest of the boys to work off and hopefully bring a bit of energy,” Masters said.
Masters was desperate for a second premiership ring and hoped to send co-captain/coach Dean Bristow out on a winning note.
“It would mean the world to me and the whole team. I was speaking to Dean the other day and I don’t think a captain/coach going back-to-back has been done before, so it would be good for him and the club,” Masters said.
The 23-year-old, who teaches at Franklin Public School, felt like he had a responsibility to play well for his students, and hoped that Tumut contesting a second consecutive Group 9 grand final meant more kids would take up the sport.
“It would be good for Tumut to win – and the kids I teach at Franklin – they love talking about their footy and following the Blues and I know that success means more kids will play,” Masters said.
“It’s very important for the Blues’ future. Look at last year’s side and this year’s side, there are so many locals. Without those local kids coming through, we can’t win those premierships.”
In more good news for Tumut, Masters was planning on spending another season with the club, and said a win on Sunday would continue the momentum into 2021.
“I think success breeds a winning culture, so if we can continue that this year and next year, maybe we get a few players back and push for another title,” Masters said.