A fortunate restructuring of the Pascoe Plate finals draw by Football Wagga Wagga (FWW), accompanied by Tumut’s hard-fought 1-nil preliminary final loss to Lake Albert two weeks ago look to have gifted the Eagles an easier run to next weekend’s grand final.
Originally, Tumut would have been playing an elimination semi-final this Sunday against Wagga United, with the winner meant to be playing the loser of Sunday’s preliminary final between Tolland and Lake Albert.
Instead, FWW shifted the Plate deciders forward a week to October 18, meaning this weekend’s semi-finals will see the winners playing in the deciders next week.
All Tumut have to do now, is knock off Wagga United and they will play the winner of either Tolland or Lake Albert for Pascoe Plate glory, giving them a chance to add to their 2014 and 2017 titles.
Coach Dylan Piper-Bye joked the pressure was on his playing group to keep up the tradition of winning the second-tier competition every three years.
“Look we’ve good a pretty consistent Pascoe Plate record; every three years we’ve won it,” Piper-Bye laughed.
On a more serious note, the young coach said his first grade and reserve grade sides were looking good ahead of their must-win matches, with the latter of the two teams also playing for a spot in the grand final when taking on the top of the table Henwood Park Hawks in their Gardiner Shield fixture.
“They are looking pretty solid; I don’t think we will have too much variation from last week’s teams,” Piper-Bye said.
“First grade is looking as solid as they have all season and reserve grade is also looking good.”
Piper-Bye believes a consistent first-grade line-up is a big reason why Tumut has continued to improve as the Pascoe and Gardiner competitions have progressed.
“I think team consistency is a big thing and has helped the team chemistry; it’s definitely good to know how other guys in the team play, so you can focus on your job and not need to make up for other people,” Piper-Bye said.
“That is why we have improved week after week and why we have got more comfortable with each other.”
Tumut will be forced to leave a decent striker on the bench too, with the in-form Rhys Creed set to be used as an impact player.
“I think he (Creed) is a good impact player, but having Frenchy (Daniel French) on the field creates that man-marking because he is a bigger build, but Creed opens up the game a little bit more with his running and off-ball game,” Piper-Bye said.
“So, we will start with Frenchy and bring on Creed.”
Despite some strong late-season form, the Eagles were kept scoreless by the Sharks in their first Pascoe Plate final, and Piper-Bye said it was an area that they needed to improve if they were to win any silverware this season.
“I think we are pretty confident in how we are playing; I think last week, the performance was out of character compared to how we have been playing,” Piper-Bye said.
“Hopefully we can find the back of the net this week and create a platform for the following week.”
The Eagles aren’t taking Wagga United for granted though, with the team expecting a freshened Wagga team to bounce back from their last round forfeit to the Eagles.
“Look, I think they have had a few weeks off so they can recuperate. I think they will come out as keen as ever and they will have a point to prove after that forfeit, but so do we, and hopefully can come out on top,” Pier-Bye said.
United coach Travis Weir said it would be tough for United to beat the Eagles, and believed a strong backline would prove the difference if his side were to win.
“We have still got players out, but we have enough back to fill a squad,” Weir said.
“We have three teams playing over the weekend, so we have to manage players. It just depends if we get our back-line back and can solidify our defence; if we do that, I that think we are good chance.”
Tumut’s Pascoe and Gardiner teams aren’t the only Eagles sides playing for spots in the grand final this weekend either, with the club’s Blake Plate team set to play Young for a spot in their grand final.
The third-grade team is coming off a strong 2-nil win over Tolland in their preliminary final, but now have to play the top of the table Lions and need to win if they want to play in the decider.
Eagles finals draws
Blake Plate: Tumut v Young 4.40pm at Rawlings Park.
Gardiner Shield: Tumut v Henwood Park 1.30pm at Rawlings Park 3.
Pascoe Plate: Tumut v Wagga United 4pm at Rawlings Park 2.