AFL North West: Gunnedah well placed to end 15-year premiership drought

DESTINY CALLING: Gunnedah have won nine straight as they look to dethrone New England.
DESTINY CALLING: Gunnedah have won nine straight as they look to dethrone New England.

Is this the year the long premiership wait for the Bulldogs ends?

Is this the year the seasons of desperate struggle are consigned to the part of the memory accessed only when delivering a cautionary tale or a “remember when” motivational speech?

Would 10 straight wins come Saturday afternoon provide the Dogs with unstoppable momentum?

These are the questions that will be answered over the coming six weeks, or less.

There is one certainty, though. In the 15 years since Gunnedah rejoined the AFL North West, this is their best chance to claim the title.

Andrew George.

Andrew George.

“This is definitely the best position we’ve been in since re-entering the comp,” said Gunnedah player-coach Greg Piggott, in his second year in charge of the team.

He added: “It’s been a long time [since the team won the premiership], and the club went through hard times.

“I know from speaking to a lot of guys it was probably four or five years ago that the club was very close to folding.

“We’ve been quite lucky to keep a core group of guys who came across at a similar time.”

Those players are Andrew George, Scott Hardy, John Woolaston, Ryan Cooper, Andrew Mack, James Mack, Alistair Hillard and Matt Pengilly.

This year the side has been strengthened by the arrival of former QAFL player Jake Spackman, long-time Narrabri member Mark Barrow, Michael Leven, who joined the club when Narrabri folded this season, and Shane Paul, who arrived from Coonabarabran.

“We’ve had some guys play a long time together, and we probably needed as few guys around them to make them competitive,” Piggott said.

“The last two or three years we’ve been lucky enough to have people arrive in town with a footballing background. It’s just what the club needed to get to that next level.”

Founded in 1977, Gunnedah won the last of their five premierships in 1991.

Since rejoining the competition in 2002, last year marked the first time the club won a final. They won the knockout semi before losing in the preliminary final.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Kangaroos, Gunnedah would not be satisfied if they don't progress further this season.

When asked if the side is confident, Piggott said: “There’s no doubt about that. We’re fairly confident with the style of play we’re playing as a team.”

Four regular season rounds remain. Gunnedah are second on the ladder behind reigning five-time premiers New England.

Piggott believes that Gunnedah’s clash against New England in the penultimate round will decide who finishes atop the ladder and gets a home final.

“They’re [the Nomads] still the team to beat … If you want to win the premiership, you’ve got to beat the Nomads,” Piggott said.