QUIRINDI hosts its first semi-final in more than a decade today but the reigning Group 4 Second Division premiers could be coming to spoil the party.
Barraba visits Quirindi’s No.1 Sportsground for the second time in a week but this time the stakes are even
The Bulldogs don’t want their title defence to end here and the young Grasshoppers are looking to do something special.
“We were talking to the boys last week and the last time we hosted one was 1998,” Quirindi president and player Luke Austin said.
“At the start of the year we put a side together just to get Quirindi up and running again, and to make the semi -finals in the first year, we’re very happy with it.
“The boys are pretty excited about the weekend.
“We haven’t played together before so to make it in our first year is pretty special.”
The game is the ultimate battle between youth and experience.
The Hoppers are full of 19 and 20-year-olds who have little semi-final experience, while the Dogs have plenty after their grand final win last year.
“We’ve had one or two players who have played in grand finals,” Austin said.
“They will be the key.
“Our halfbacks have been big for us all year too so they’ll be another key – Josh Crittenden and Steven Nean.”
The Barraba big men will be hard to handle for the smaller Hoppers pack but they have been up against bigger sides all year.
“It’ll be a tough task,” Austin said.
“They’ve got guys like Tim Coombes and Shaun Spence and they’ll be hard to stop when they keep coming at us.
“But pound for pound our forward pack has gone all right.”
Coombes is still in doubt after dislocating his knee in last week’s loss to the Hoppers in the last regular season match.
He will probably sit on the bench and only come on if needed.
“Obviously it won’t be 100 per cent,” Coombes said.
“If they do the job I might not even have to play.”
Quirindi won 22-16 last week and a repeat of that would see Barraba’s premiership defence end.
“We have to improve a lot on last week’s performance or we’ll be dead,” Coombes said.
“For the experience we have in the side it was a pretty poor performance.
“But I’m expecting a much better performance this week.”
He said he would be looking for starting skipper Adam Russell and former captain Shaun Spence to lead the way.
“They’re the ones I’ll be looking to,” Coombes said.
“Adam will play in the halves and hopefully he’ll steer them around.
“Shaun just has to do his job of carrying the ball up and tackling.
“He’ll probably have to do a lot of work and I don’t want him having to think about anything else.”
Quirindi’s youth and enthusiasm has carried it this far and Coombes knows how much of an advantage that can be.
“Their enthusiasm has been where they’ve got us before,” he said.
“Their forwards are smaller than ours but they keep going.
“Their energy is good.
“That’s perhaps where we haven’t been as good and we need our experienced players to keep us in it.”