Battle of Alcatraz for a special cause

ARMIDALE and Barbarians will be battling for more than competition points at Alcatraz today.

The Charity Shield is also on the line.

The concept of the Charity Shield was introduced three years ago and sees the two clubs playing for the silverware – and raising money for charity – in their first encounter for the season.

This year they’ll be supporting the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. 

It’s a cause particularly close to the Barbarians’ heart with Billy Hyde’s four-year-old nephew diagnosed with the disease.

The Baa Baas have had the Blues’ measure in the fixture, winning both games and will be looking to build off their first-round win over St Albert’s.

“It was a good win against Albies,” coach Sam Piddington said.

There was a lot of first- game stuff like dropped balls and such, but some good signs for the season.

The Blues also had a first- round win and are tipped as one of the title favourites, so will be a good gauge, Piddington said.

He said they would be pretty much at full strength although they will be without fullback Keith Ellis.

He’s involved in the Tour de Rocks (cycling). 

But Piddington understands the Blues will also be missing a few players.

He thought the most impressive thing about the win over Albies was the way they ground it out.

“It looked like we were down and out,” he said.

“Our guys really stepped it up and put a couple of big hits on and turned the game.”

He said it would have been good to get another game straight away. Now they effectively have to restart and he is expecting it to be a bit scrappy early.

Discipline will be a major focus.

“We always seem to have problems with discipline,” Piddington said.

They can’t afford to be giving the Blues easy possession or a numbers advantage.

There’ll also be a strong emphasis on defence.

“We really want to not miss tackles,” Piddington said.

It’s about doing the simple things right and taking it to the Blues up front.

“They’ve got a big strong forward pack,” he said.

“Our blokes have to outmuscle them in the forwards.”

They have a lot of new faces and are still coming together as a side with a lot of new pairings this season.

Both in the halves and centres they’ve got new combinations, with Joe Piddington playing at inside centre. 

He’s more accustomed to the second-back row  but stepped in to fill a void.

“He played there at the knockout and is playing some good football there,” Piddington said.

In the other game, Albies is at home to Guyra.

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