FARRER prop Andy Saunders is used to travelling to Sydney for big games but Wednesday’s University Shield final against Tumut High at Shark Park is probably the biggest yet.
The Quirindi local was signed by the Penrith Panthers for this season and played every weekend in Sydney at the start of the year while still attending Farrer during the week.
“I played SG Ball (U18s) for the Panthers,” Saunders said.
“I was flying down Wednesday afternoon and to play Saturdays.
“It was a 14-week competition and we were undefeated but we lost to Balmain in the semis by two points.”
That was a disappointing way to finish with the Panthers for 2012 but then Farrer commitments gave the 18-year-old another chance at success.
Unfortunately, injury kept him out of some of Farrer’s big games in the GIO Cup but he has been back for the past three Uni Shield games, including last week’s semi-final win over Yanco.
“It’s good to be back from injury now,” Saunders said.
“I got injured just after the SG Ball so I missed all the GIO Cup games against Blacktown and that.
“I’ve just been back for the Uni Shield.
“It’s good to be able to go down and go out on a high.
“It was our last game at Farrer (last week) ever so it was good to get a win.”
The boys now face Tumut in the decider and Saunders is one of a handful of Farrer players who will graduate after the game.
“We play Tumut High,” he said.
“It’ll be good to go down there together.
“After playing for three years it’s good to play our last game in a final.”
Saunders is part of a strengthened forward pack alongside another Liverpool Plains product in hooker and captain Logan Harris.
Also in the pack are Josh Pursche, Ben Allen, Tremayne Sanbrook and Zander Smith, while there are plenty of able bench players who will do their bit.
Injury has been a constant hindrance for the green and golds this year but the pack is back to full strength at the right time.
“The forward pack is in good form,” Saunders said.
“It’s just a shame that Brad Cappello has hurt his hamstring.
“We’ll miss him.
“It’s a shame we’ve had so many injuries through the year.”
The plan is to win the Uni Shield on Wednesday and then concentrate on school work.
But after that Saunders will be heading back to Penrith where he hopes to cement a place in the Toyota Cup (U20s) squad over the next two years.
“It’s a three-year contract – this year, next year and the year after,” Saunders said.
“I go back down in November.
“There’s four of us who are going up to the under 20s.”