THE New England grand final might be new territory for UNE Barbarians but several of the players have been there before.
One of those is number eight Rob Ivey.
Ivey played with Guyra until this season and was there when the Ghosts made the decider two years ago.
Then it had been over a decade since they’d reached the grand final.
Things didn’t go too well though, with Armidale proving too strong for them.
Ivey is hoping to go one better on Saturday when Baa Baas make their first appearance in the grand final.
He linked up with them when the Ghosts opted out of playing first grade, wanting to keep playing first grade.
There were really only a couple of options – Armidale or the Baa Baas.
The Baa Baas won out.
“I’ve got a few mates from school who play with me in the team,” Ivey said.
Joe Piddington and Stirling Osland were both team-mates at The Armidale School.
“It’s been a good move,” he said.
It has mean a bit more travelling to training and games, with the family farm on the Inverell side of Guyra.
“I’m probably a good 100ks away,” Ivey said.
He has been a handy recruit and has added some more punch to the Baa Baa pack.
They head into the grand final as the team to beat after winning the minor premiership by a bit of a distance.
But they still have a way to go to be playing their best, Ivey said, and have a few areas where they need to step up.
“Against Albies, our covering defence and our ball security,” he said.
“And pretty much working as a pack in the forwards.”
They have beaten Albies every time they’ve played them this season but that won’t count for a lot come Saturday.
It’s a grand final and Albies are at their home ground.
The students are also the defending champions.
Baa Baas though know they have the recipe to beat them.
“The key to beating them is playing simple rugby, nothing too overboard,” Ivey said.
They will also have to keep their discipline and be on their toes.
“They’ll throw it side to side and move the ball pretty quick,” he said.
He said that with one of his Albies opponents not too far out of ear shot.
“I’m actually working with one of them,” Ivey said.
He was referring to cousin and Albies centre Charlie Lockyer, who he also played with at TAS and is one of several Albies players backing up from last year’s success.