The stage is set for an epic Group 9 battle at Anzac Park on Saturday with the Tumut Blues and Gundagai Tigers playing off for the Group 9 minor premiership.
The two undefeated sides, who couldn’t be separated after their 16-all draw back in round one, have since gone on to win their next five matches, with Tigers only marginally ahead after seven rounds on points difference.
In a season that could not have been scripted any better, the heated-rivals have it all to play for on Saturday, with home ground advantage the princely reward for the winners, as the two sides are locked in to do battle the following weekend in the first round of finals.
Blues co-captain/coach Dean Bristow admitted it would be nice to play their first finals match at home, but said it wasn’t the end of the world if they were to lose to the Tigers.
“It would be great to win, but it’s obviously not the be all and end all, it would be good to have the home advantage for the first week of the finals but winning that first finals game is much more important,” Bristow said.
Bristow indicated the Blues would stick to their strengths, with Tumut’s forward pack dominating their opponents in each of their contests this season.
“We will be looking to win that field possession battle and win the game in the ruck. I think our forward pack can easily match, or better any team in the comp,” Bristow said.
The injured skipper said Tumut’s biggest concern would be out wide, with the Gundagai line-up laden with explosive finishers, such as Dane O’Hehir, Damien Willis and Matt Lyons and Jack Lyons.
“They will look to go to our edges and that’s where we will need to be on our game,” Bristow said.
“Their strength is obviously their edges, I think everyone in the competition knows how potent their outside backs are, and we just need to find a way to handle them.”
Tigers captain Luke Berkrey was happy to hype up the contest, labelling it the biggest game of the season before finals commence next week.
“It’s obviously all set up for good day, both teams are going well. Tumut had a good win last week and both teams are in good form,” Berkrey said.
“I think it’s a player’s dream really, games like this; it’s the biggest game that either team will play in without it being a final series.”
Berkrey was adamant Tigers could win the contest too, after doing away with Junee 16-6 in a somewhat scrappy performance last Saturday at Laurie Daley Oval.
“We believe we will win. We built some real momentum in the previous two weeks with a good win against Roos and an even better win against Southcity,” Berkrey said.
“We maybe took a backwards step last week against Junee, maybe; but we will be up for the game this week.”
The Tigers captain admitted that attacking Tumut’s edges could be a focus for the home side, but acknowledged that returning Tumut players would sure up their fringes.
“It’s one area we might be looking at, Tumut might have a couple of changes with guys coming back into the side,” Berkrey said.
“It’s probably a little bit of a focus of ours, but we will see how things go.”