MOREE coach Damien Kelly has long maintained that defence would win the Bulls the premiership and he isn’t wavering from that heading into today’s decider and the Bulls’ first home grand final since 2007.
That’s how long it’s been since the Bulls held the Heath Shield silverware they not that long ago seemed to have a mortgage on.
Kelly was living in Scotland then but played in the last three of their historic four-straight premierships.
Today will be the second grand final he’s been involved in since he returned from Scotland and, with the wisdom of age, is a lot more philosophical about them.
“I probably took them for granted,” he said.
“Being a bit older I realise they don’t just fall in your lap.”
They take a lot of hard work and Kelly admitted that he’s probably more nervous this year than before any of the four previously.
“I think it’s the fear of losing,” he said.
The thought of watching Narrabri hold the trophy isn’t one that sits well with him.
It could also be that it could be his last game in a Bulls jersey.
Back then too, he didn’t have a lot of input into how they played.
Not so now, with Kelly taking over the coaching reins this season with the assistance of Peter Copeman.
Copeman,, incidentally, coached him back in 2000.
Feeling their game needed to evolve, Kelly has taken a bit of a different approach to how they play.
“When I got back, we were doing the same things we were doing back in 2001 (when he left),” he said.
One of the big changes is the way they work as a forward pack.
He’s tried to get away from playing “eight-man rugby” and tried to get them playing a bit looser.
So far it’s worked.
Kelly was back from Scotland when the Bulls made the grand final two years ago but feels they are in a lot better shape this time round.
“We’ve got a better side and we’re playing a bit better-structured footy,” he said.
Still, it’s going to take a mighty effort to win.
“We have to play at out absolute best to match it with them,” he said.
“Anything under that and we won’t deserve to win.”
“Everyone has to have a blinder,” he said.
He has a lot of respect for the Blue Boars. It’s a respect forged on the battles of the past and this year.
The Blue Boars are the only team to beat them this year.
They’re not too worried about that game but know if they repeat that performance they’ll get done.
“They’re going to be harder to beat than Pirates,” Kelly said.
“They don’t give up.
“Narrabri will keep coming at us. We know that.”
He couldn’t really pick out any weaknesses. They’ve got a good pack and behind them probably the best halves pairing in the competition in Matt Schwager and Brenton Cochrane.
A lot for the Bulls will rest on their defence.
That’s what will win it or lose it, Kelly said, and they will need to be a lot better than they were two weeks ago against Pirates.
“If we defend like that (Pirates) we won’t win,” he said.
They also need to improve their attitude.
“Against Pirates for 60 minutes it was dreadfully quiet and flat,” Kelly said.
“The last 20 minutes we woke up, played a bit smarter and kicked the ball better.”
They can’t afford to do that today, or the game might be gone by then.