BULLS NOT COCKY BEFORE TIGERS SHOWDOWN
By Les Muir
CLOSING the book on the premiership rounds, Southcity captain-coach Nick Skinner is taking nothing for granted before the Bulls play Gundagai in the major semi-final at Harris Park on Sunday.
Southcity thrashed Gundagai 50-10 at the venue on July 16, but Skinner believes the result is now totally irrelevant.
“How we won the last game isn’t a factor,” Skinner said on Tuesday.
“This is a completely new game and we just can’t afford to be taking them lightly in any way.”
As it stands, Gundagai and Southcity have played twice this year, with the scoresheet level.
Gundagai edged Southcity 24-22 on April 23 before the Bulls puts the cleaners through the Tigers a month ago.
Even though he thinks Southcity should have won the first clash as well, Skinner is refusing to put any credence on the earlier games this year.
Heading into the grand final qualifier in Wagga on Sunday, Skinner’s respect is as lofty as ever for Southcity’s great rival of recent times.
The Bulls coach was highly impressed by Gundagai’s nine try rampage against Young in the qualifying final at Anzac Park last Sunday.
“I didn’t go to the game but I watched the replay (on Wagga TV),” Skinner said.
“Gundagai was pretty impressive.
“They’re a big team and really played well.”
Bouncing back to their menacing best, Gundagai ran riot against the Cherrypickers, blitzing them by 48-4 to restate their premiership claims.
On the rebound from four weeks on the sideline with a hamstring injury, Skinner can’t wait to get another crack at the Tigers.
“I’m good to go,” he said.
“I’m as keen as.”
The return of Skinner and ace fullback Jake Dooley will give the Bulls a more authoritative look.
However, gun hooker Pani Manawatu will again be missing due to work commitments in Queensland.
The absence of Manawatu means incoming 2018 coach Kyle McCarthy will switch to hooker and Thomas Besgrove will play in the halves.
Elsewhere, Dooley will slot in at fullback after a month out as Steve Tracey moves to the wing and Mitch Bennett to the centre.
Experienced Scott Bowden is also back in the team.
“We’ll just about be at full strength,” Skinner said.
“Just not quite.”
After coming through unscathed on Sunday, Gundagai seems certain to name an unchanged team for the major semi-final, with big Vinnie Brown expected to come off the bench again.
Top referee Scott Muir will control the game, while Jake White has survived to grab the appointment for the minor semi-final between Young and Tumut at Alfred Oval on Saturday.