DANIEL Ritter and Ben Hagan were team-mates when they spearheaded Greater Northern to a Country Tier 2 Championship semifinal earlier this year.
On Sunday they will be the fiercest of rivals when their respective Scone and Denman sides match-up in an A Plus Contracting Group 21 Preliminary Final at Scone Park.
At stake will be a grand-final berth against Greta Branxton Colts at Greta Oval on Sunday week after the Colts beat Scone 22-18 in the second period of extra time last Sunday.
Ritter and Hagan are the leaders of their respective packs, both play similar 80 minute games with high rates and quality attacking and defensive games.
Hagan has been one Group 21’s best forwards for more than a decade, a former Aberdeen player who coached both the Tigers and Devils.
He played a big role in last year’s grand final success and has given captain-coach Blake Dureau great service this season.
He’s been enormous for us,” said Denman stalwart and life member Neil Barry.
“Years ago a mate of mine rang me from Goondiwindi chasing a captain-coach. He asked who was the best forward in Group 21 and I told him Ben. He was terrorising us, and it would have made it a lot easier if he wasn’t there.
“He didn’t go to Goondiwindi but he did go up further north for a couple of years and when he came back he came out here.
“The whole family is a huge asset to the town now too.
“His wife, Lillian, coaches two of the Under 7 sides here and their son Diesel, well he’s going to be a future Northern Division rep for sure. He’s a real star already.”
While Hagan has been a major asset on and off the field some of the younger players, such as Jake Green, Broque Smith and Isaac Richardson will also play big roles in a team skippered by big-kicking half back Blake Dureau.
Making it even more interesting is the fact Ben Hagan’s younger brother, Tom, will play for a Scone side that will be missing injured hooker John Johnson and winger Joe Adams.
Johnson has a broken forearm while Adams strained knee ligaments early in last Sunday’s four-point final loss.
The game changed when Johnson went off midway through the first half last week with Scone leading 10-nil and in control against Greta.
“It did change a little when John went off,” Ritter admitted yesterday.
“Joe’s knee injury might not be as bad as it looked. We’ve brought Jake Bailey up for John and Michael Rolfe will go onto the wing for Joe.” Bailey is a former Country Under 18 backrower who returned from a couple of years out to play for the Thoroughbreds this year.
“He’s done well at hooker for us in second grade,” Ritter said.
“He was a backrower as a junior but has jumped into hooker this year and has a high work rate. Tom did well when he filled in at hooker after Johnno went off last week too. But he and Ben (Hagan) will have a good battle too, they normally do.
Tom Hagan, James Barker and Will Carrigan were three of the side’s best last Sunday and will be key men again in Sunday’s clash against a side that plays a more expensive, ad-lib game than the Colts.
n G21 Final teams in Sport Details