BULLS READY FOR GRAND FINAL REHEARSAL
By Les Muir
IT’S BEING billed as a rehearsal for the grand final and Southcity captain-coach Nick Skinner knows there is much at stake against Gundagai at Harris Park on Sunday.
Three months after losing 24-22 to Gundagai at Anzac Park, Skinner is relishing the prospect of evening the score with the Tigers on Southcity’s turf.
“Winning would definitely be good for our confidence,” Skinner said on Tuesday.
“It’s all about building momentum before the finals.”
Back in April, Gundagai scored five tries to Southcity’s four tries to reverse the result from the Group Nine grand final in September.
Recalling the latest stoush, Skinner says the Bulls were off their game but had their chance to sink the Tigers.
“We didn’t play well and they still only got us near the end,” Skinner remembers.
“We could have won the game.”
Although the Bulls drew 26-all with Young on June 25.the loss to Gundagai remains Southcity’s only blemish for the year.
A month out from the finals starting on August 19-20, Southcity is leading the premiership with 23 points, one point ahead of second-placed Gundagai.
Significantly, victory on Sunday is expected to guarantee top spot to one of the teams – and a home venue for the major semi-final on August 27.
After Sunday, Southcity will play Junee (away), Tumbarumba (home), Temora (away) and Brothers (home) – and should round out the year with four wins.
Likewise, Gundagai is in a similar position and will have the bye before playing Junee (home), Tumbarumba (away) and Temora (home).
For Skinner, the advantages of a success on Sunday outweigh the consequences of another near miss with Gundagai.
“Obviously we’d like to win, but Gundagai will tough,” he said.
“We’ve built a good rivalry over the last few years.
“It’ll be a tough game and win or lose we’ll both be heading into the finals in five weeks time.”
Despite Southcity coming off the bye last weekend, Skinner is not totally sure about the “makeup” of the team.
“We’ve got a few blokes with niggling injuries and we’ll have to see how they come up at training tonight (Tuesday),” he said.
“The bye came at the right time for us and hopefully we could be at full strength.”
Southcity was missing gun prop Hayden Jeans in the first duel with Gundagai this year and star centre Usaia O’Sullivan had only just returned to the club.
Down the track, Jeans has recovered completely from a back problem and was awesome against Kangaroos two weeks ago, while O’Sullivan terrorised Roos and scored three tries.
On the other side of the fence, Gundagai was without Dane O’Hehir in April, but he will play on Sunday.
Countering O’Hehir’s presence for the Tigers is the loss of James Luff and Damian Willis, two of their most influential players.