It only feels like yesterday that the Southern Inland Rugby Union (SIRU) season was kicking off, but fast-forward nine rounds and the competition sits at the midway point of 2021.
Wagga City and Wagga Waratahs are locked at the top of the table, but the Boiled Lollies are unbeaten and have a game in hand over their rivals.
It looks like a matter of keeping up with the reigning premiers, while there is plenty of interest in the tight tussle for the three remaining finals spots, with Waratahs shaping as the second placed team, and Albury, Griffith and Tumut all pushing for the last two spots.
Tumut has it all to do though, with a tough run home that includes two games against City and other fixtures against Tahs, Griffith and Albury,
The season certainly isn’t over for Aggies and Reddies, but results would have to start to go their way sooner rather than later, or risk being left behind.
In this article, Tumut and Adelong Times sports journalist, Jeff Hanson, runs his eye over the season to date, highlighting key results, players to watch and he looks ahead, predicting who will finish where and what games will be most important.
Position: 1st, 6 wins and 29 points
Player to watch: Dylan McLachlan tore Tumut to shreds in their round nine match up and it looks as though the talented finisher is only warming up at the halfway point of the season.
Summary: When laying out all the cards on the SIRU table, Wagga City look to be holding a Royal Flush.
The Boiled Lollies have talent all over the park, depth throughout their grades and a genuine swagger that comes with being unbeaten for a season and a half. They shouldn’t lose a game.
Position: 2nd, 6 wins and 29 points
Prediction: Runners up
Player to watch: James Grimmett plays an attractive style of rugby and is suited to the expansive approach Wagga Waratahs take into their matches.
If the Tahs forward pack can continue to lay a good platform, Grimmett should be on the end of plenty more tries in 2021.
Summary: Easily the second-best team in the competition, but the Wagga side will be keeping a close eye on the trailing three teams, which on their day, are capable of knocking them out of second.
Waratahs should be grand final bound, but the question remains, do they have enough firepower to match City?
Position: 3rd, 3 wins a draw and 19 points
Player to watch: Liam Krautz is often Albury’s player to watch, and rightly so, with the power-running forward and two-time Bill Castle Medal winner the best player in the competition on his day.
With the season now getting into the latter stages, Krautz’s fitness will improve and he could be key to Albury surprising one of the top two teams.
Summary: Albury are the surprise packets of the 2021 season, sitting third after missing out on playing in 2020 due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Steamers have a good run home, and if they beat the teams they should beat, then third place is all wrapped up. Key games will come against Griffith and Tumut, who they play back-to-back in rounds 13 and 14.
Position: 4th, 3 wins a draw and 18 points
Player to watch: Scrum halves often don’t get the plaudits they deserve, and Bryn Francis has a tough job at Griffith.
The playmaker has a big pack to control and a fast backline who demands quick and crisp ball, which he always provides.
Francis has popped up with tries in most games, communicates well and he always has defences guessing.
Summary: Griffith are the enigma of the SIRU competition, pushing teams to close results when they probably shouldn’t and losing games they should probably win.
Not the best travellers, and four away games from their final seven matches could potentially catch up with them. Their home game against Tumut in round 12 could essentially make or break their season.
Position: 5th, 3 wins and 14 points
Player to watch: Vincent Wise has easily been Tumut’s best back in 2021 and he will be one to watch as the season rolls on.
The diminutive centre is light on his feet and has a knack of finding space and the try line.
Summary: After a solid start to the season, the Bulls will be disappointed to have lost back-to-back games to Waratahs before being spanked by Wagga City in round nine.
Things don’t get easier on Saturday when visiting City, but after a round 11 bye, Tumut have a four-game stretch against Griffith, Aggies, Albury and Reddies which will make or break their finals chances – Tumut essentially need to win all four games.
Wagga Ag College
Position: 6th, 2 wins and 9 points
Player to watch: Tasman Kuhn is a solid number eight, who has featured strongly in 2021. Aggies haven’t given too much away in the middle of the park and that is largely due to his efforts on both sides of the ball.
Summary: Another surprise packet, with the Wagga club playing good rugby in their first season back after a year off.
A young and hungry squad will likely miss finals, but they will push teams and could be a chance of pulling off one or two upsets along the way.
Position: Last, no wins and 3 points
Player to watch: Rob McMahon continues to toil away for Reddies in the back row, and he has been the Wagga side’s most consistent forward.
Summary: It was always going to be another tough season for Reddies, who are winless through the first nine rounds.
It was heartbreak in both games against Aggies, going down 15-12 and 21-20, and their round 17 match against their rivals will likely be their only chance of winning a game.