IT’S now or never for the Orange Tigers.
The club’s first grade side begins its tilt for premiership glory with a minor semi-final showdown against an in-form Parkes Panthers at the Orange Ex-Services Country Club Oval on Sunday in the Central West AFL’s battle of the big cats.
Of the four sides heading into this year’s finals series, the boys from Tigerland are probably the most underdone.
Minor premiers the Bathurst Bushrangers will have a point to prove following a final-round defeat against two-time defending premiers and the second-placed Cowra Blues, with the two heavyweights again going head-to-head in the major semi-final on Saturday in Bathurst.
Parkes stormed home to finish the year in fourth, winning three of their final five games to qualify.
Orange, however, have only won once in five weeks.
But for the Tigers, Sunday’s semi-final isn’t about form.
You can thrown that out the window.
“It’s not all about ability and who’s the better side, I think it comes down to who wants it more,” player-coach Joashim Mahon said.
“Everyone says anything can happen in finals and that’s the way we’re going to take it. Fair enough we’ve got a few key players out but anyone can lift any given day.”
The last time these two sides met, Parkes stunned the Tigers to record a 15.17 (107) to 14.7 (91) win in Orange.
Mahon knows Parkes will get plenty of confidence out of that win.
He was hoping his players respond.
“I think we’ve got to,” he said.
“We just need a complete team performance. It’s something we’ve lacked all year so hopefully the fact it’s lose and we’re out will get the guys pumped to turn on a good performance.”
Mahon said both the Tigers and Panthers we’re evenly matched heading into the competition’s minor semi-final.
Starting well and maintaining that same intensity for four quarters of footy.
“We’ve been hurt by injuries. A lot of those guys are out for the season, too, and that’s a big thing,” Mahon said looking at the Tigers’ casualty ward and the likes of Simon Kay, Murray Robotham, Rhys Goudie, Tom Burge and Dale Hunter.
In a boost for the club Varun Wejiwardene, Shane Properjohn and Nick Goudie are all back, though.
“Those three are going to make a big difference,” he said. “I think we showed in the last half we can match (Parkes). I think the boys will be fairly confident they can win, well they should be anyway.”
The Orange Tigers are the CWAFL reserve grade minor premiers and will get a shot at progressing straight through to the 2012 grand final with a win over Dubbo in Bathurst on Saturday.
In the main game, Bathurst hosts defending premiers Cowra at George Oval.
The winner hosts this year’s grand final.
In Orange on Sunday, the Tigers host Parkes from 2.30pm.