QUIRINDI Grasshoppers enter tomorrow’s West Shield Group 4 Second Division grand final against minor premiers Barraba Bulldogs with momentum and confidence borne of a winning run into the finals series.
Barraba has the home ground advantage and knowledge it has four or five match- winners who can deliver the town a second title in three years.
The last time the two sides met, Barraba won a thrilling major semi-final by two points.
The Bulldogs are at full strength too, captain-coach Tim Coombes said.
“We’ve got to bring our A game against them this time,” Coombes said at Wednesday’s Group 4 presentation night.
“They have had a good run – played every week and had two golden-point games as well.
“We’ve had three games in six weeks so that makes it tougher for us.
“And it’s going to be hot but it will be hot for both sides.”
He said Quirindi might have the edge in match fitness but hopes the talent in his side will shine through.
“We were held up over the line five times the last time we we played them too,” he said.
“We’re hoping for a better result there.”
He said his side must turn up to play and improve markedly on its major semi effort when it “fell in”.
Coombes, Tim Mallise and Shaun Spence will lead the way in the pack with halves Joey Latham and Brad Craddock key men in a backline also featuring Luke White and his father, Geoff White, in the centres.
The fact three brothers Tim Mallise and twins Zac and Jock Mallise, are also in the squad makes it a real family affair.
Quirindi Grasshoppers are almost at their strongest.
Luke Austin, who is also the club president, is about the only casualty.
He injured his neck at the West Knockout early in the pre-season and didn’t play again until July but re-injured the ligaments a few weeks ago and won’t play again this year.
“Not worth the risk,” Austin said yesterday.
His father, Mark Austin, is the coach and they have the Grasshoppers in good form.
“We started the season well but then lost our way in the middle of the year,” Luke Austin said.
“We had a few injuries but the last five or six weeks we’ve been on song and played some pretty good football.”
A golden-point win at Dungowan was a crucial win for the side last month.
They also had the narrow major semi win followed by last Sunday’s golden-point win over Dungowan in the preliminary final.
Josh Rushby’s late try earned the side another crack at Barraba.
“We’re playing well enough to win it,” Luke Austin said.
“We’ll go up there and stick it to them,” the 21-year-old club president promised.
While Matt McCulloch, Josh Crittenden and props Damien Allan and Nick O’Leary have been outstanding, the likes of Ian Reid and hooker-cum-lock Chris Darlington have been unsung heroes, Austin reckoned.