Group 19 rugby league: A grade semi-final at Mead Park this Sunday

A Glen Innes Magpies A grade team hasn’t played semi-finals football since 2014 but that all changes this Sunday.

The Magpies side finished third at the end of the Group 19 season and earned the right to host the minor semi-final against the fourth-placed Boars. 

Their final match of the season saw the Magpies downed by minor premiers Moree Boomerangs with injuries cruelling them of a bench for the final 20 minutes. 

A weekend on the sidelines gave the wounded troops a chance to recover, much to the relief of captain-coach Nick Say. 

“We have got a few injuries from the Moree game but they are all fine to go,” he said.

“I think we will be pretty much full-strength which is nice. 

“The week off was probably a blessing in disguise. 

“You enjoy playing consistent footy but with the injuries we got from that game it was good to have the weekend off and freshen up again to get ready for the fun part of the year.”

The last time the Magpies met the Boars at Mead Park the home side escaped with a two-point win. 

Despite holding the upper hand, Say believes it is a whole different ball game during the semi-finals. 

“You don't want to be reflecting on games that have happened during the year because they don't mean anything this time of year,” he said. 

“They will be tough, they always are. 

“They have a big forward pack and are big all across the park.” 

The Magpies boast the best defence in the A grade competition but also have the competition’s leading pointscorer in hooker Guy Mepham. 

Earlier this week, Moree Boomerangs coach Chris Binge told Fairfax Media Mepham will be key as to how far Glen Innes advance in the finals and Say is aware the rake will be a marked man.

“I think most sides do [have him marked] these days,” he said. 

“If they have him marked it gives everyone else a bit of freedom too.

“If they target one player it sort of opens up everyone else as well. 

“A lot of our attack does come off Mep but if they want to shut him down then it gives our outside edges a bit more freedom to move if they want to compress on him.”

Mepham is among a handful of players in the current Glen Innes squad who have experienced finals success at a senior level before.

Despite the lack of experience in senior semi-final rugby league, Say believes the team will cope with the step up. 

“We have some leadership boys around the club, even some that haven't played finals, they just love playing footy,” he said. 

“There's not a lot of difference, there is just a bit more excitement about it but it is a normal game of football really. 

“I think a lot of the younger boys know that, they have played finals in the juniors which gives them a bit of experience. 

“It's why you play footy I guess – so you can play finals football.”

The first minor-semi final will begin at 10am with the league tag match between Inverell and the Boomerangs. 

The 18s between Glen and the Boars will follow before the reserve grade clash between Narwan and the Boars. 

The A grade fixture will round out the day’s matches.