Grand final preparations have taken a bit of a back seat this week for two of Saturday’s first grade rivals – but for a good reason.
Pirates’ Doug Biffin and Walcha’s Sandy Cameron both welcomed new additions to their families on Wednesday – Biffin a baby girl and Cameron a baby boy.
Maggie is the second child for Biffin and fiancee Karly Rixon, and a younger sister to Alby, who is 19 months old, while Wallace is Cameron and wife Kimmie’s first.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Cameron said.
He joked there was some concern the two events might have coincided with Kimmie due on Thursday.
“It was something I really hoped wouldn’t come to fruition,” he said.
When he spoke to The Leader on Friday, he was driving back to Tamworth after ducking home for training on Thursday night and to do a couple of jobs around the farm.
Part of the side that was beaten by a point in last years decider, the second-rower said there was a pretty confident feeling around the group, the disappointment spurring them on.
Hungry last year to end the club’s 20-year first grade title drought, he said “having that happen we’re hungrier again”.
“Especially being in a small town like Walcha, it doesn’t happen too often, you don’t want to waste them,” he said.
He said they will take some lessons from last year into Saturday.
“All finals football you have to play the 80 whole 80 minutes. We were a bit slow to start,” he said.
They let Pirates get out to a 26-6 lead, and while they able to run that down there was a sentiment that it could have been a different story had they played a bit better in the first half.
For Biffin, Saturday will be his fifth grand final for Pirates, who will be chasing a third straight premiership for the second time in a decade.
The backrower has been part of both triumphs but admitted their was “a bit more feeling” to Saturday being potentially the last time that some of them pull on a Pirates jersey.
There was a thought that a few might hang up the boots after last season but they decided to go around for another season at least.
“It’s become a one-in-all-in mentality,” Biffin said.
“At the start of the year there were a few phone calls going around. It’s a bit like John Farnham – one more time.”
He said there is a sense that they “haven’t put it together” yet.
“We’ve got a lot more room for improvement,” he said.
Defence will be one of the areas they will be looking for improvement.
It has continued to be a big focus, knowing how imperative it is that they get their defence right.
Biffin also spoke about how important ball control will be, believing that’s what it will come down to.
“We’ve focused on not turning over possession and not giving away cheap field position,” he said.