MARSHALL Barker played himself to a standstill on Sunday during the Bears’ preliminary final win over Wee Waa as he chases more success in Gunnedah tonight when The Northern Daily Leader Group 4 Player of the Year is announced.
He then has Sunday’s grand final against West Lions at Scully Park to look forward to.
Barker led the prestigious Northern Daily Leader Group 4 Player of the Year Award when the points went under cover for the final three rounds but he faced a concerted challenge from some of the other talented young players.
While his nearest rival, West prop Scott Rolls, was injured and didn’t play the final two rounds, Narrabri captain-coach Sean Russ, Wee Waa’s Ben Power and West Lions prop Chris Vidler all had big finishes to the home and away rounds.
Vidler and Rolls, like Barker, are key men in grand final plans for Sunday.
Group 4 secretary Mick Schmiedel said tonight’s presentation night at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club is a good change by G4 officials to add a little prestige and ceremony to the season.
In previous years, Group 4 had handed out player awards on grand final day.
This year they hope the presentation night will add a bit more to the season.
As well as handing out B&F awards in first, second, under 18 and ladies’ league tag grades, they will also present leading pointscorer and tryscorers as well.
Wee Waa’s Josh Trindall is the leading first grade pointscorer and Sean Russ the leading first grade tryscorer.
While Barker is a favourite to win The Leader Group 4 Player of the Year award, he was also one of North Tamworth’s best in Sunday’s 42-32 preliminary final win over the Panthers in Wee Waa.
The mobile prop was tireless in defence in the first half of a final the Panthers were
He and fellow forward Shane Wadwell held the side together and were coach Brad McManus’s standouts in the grinding win.
“Wadwell and Barker did what they do best,” McManus said after the game.
“They are both big-game players and what came off the back of them was outstanding.”
Wadwell finished the game with three tries and, if Barker held the side up in defence in the opening half, Wadwell did the lion’s share of the forwards’ attack, throwing himself into the opposition line repeatedly.
“The boys were a bit frustrated in the first half,” Barker said.
“We weren’t playing really well at the start there and there was a lot of pressure on us.”
A half-time chat from McManus had the rest of the pack up to speed after the break and they soon matched it with the Panthers’ big forwards.
Barker started to shine in attack and was hitting the slowing Panthers’ line hard, getting a few valuable offloads and penetrating the line
“We started to control the ball a lot better and shut Brenton (Cochrane) down a bit.”
“Our quick play the balls caught their pack out once they slowed down and we were rolling forward.”
They certainly were rolling forward, Wadwell scoring his third try of the day to get the Bears’ noses in front for the first time after an hour of play.
Both forwards got plenty of minutes in the game.
In a testament to their fitness, they kept going until the whistle had blown and the final awaited.
“We have trained hard at our fitness,” Barker said.
“We knew they would give us a run for our money so we planned to stick with them and play the full 80.”
“We made up for a disappointing start by holding on in the end and gutsing it out.”