NATHAN Pearce’s Orange Tigers hold all of the cards ahead of the Central West AFL finals series after securing the 2014 minor premiership with a 32-point penultimate round victory over Bathurst last Saturday.
The fighting fury wrapped up this year’s minor prize following a 14.12 (96) to 9.10 (64) win over the Bushrangers at George Park, and with it earned the definitive advantage of a home major semi-final on August 30, also against the Bathurst.
But, more than home ground advantage, Pearce’s side dished out a significant psychological blow to the Bushies.
Chalking up win number 12 in succession, the Tigers have now beaten Bathurst in each of their last three clashes and will head into week one of the semi-finals in a fortnight confident of inflicting more pain on the Bushies.
“We’ll definitely take confidence out of that game,” Pearce said.
“We had a good 22 on the weekend and we’ve still got guys who will come back and fight for positions. We’re still capable of getting better.”
With the Tigers heading to Dubbo this weekend for the final round of the 2014 regular season and with the minor premiership already wrapped up, Pearce said his side will take the opportunity to rest up some of its key players, namely mid-field gun Michael Rothnie.
But, if last Saturday’s result is any indication, his absence won’t hurt the Tigers in Dubbo.
Depth is this side’s biggest strength.
Against the powerful Bushies, the Tigers were without leading ruckman Leigh Turner.
Most sides would crumble without its first string hitman working the ruck.
But in his place Jarrad Lenegan stood tall.
A defender down last weekend as well, Chris Rothnie moved from half-forward to the back pocket and shone in a near best-on-ground performance for the Tigers.
Down by three points at the first break, Orange stormed to a 8.5 (53) to 4.7 (31) lead by half-time and enjoyed a further six goals in the second half to win comfortably on Bathurst’s home turf.
“It was really pleasing,” Pearce said, his Tigers just three wins away from back-to-back first grade flags.
“We had a number of guys out for that game and we moved a few guys around and they each stood up. We’ll take a lot of positives from the win.
“We sung the team song with a bit of passion and we were happy to celebrate a bit after last week, but the boys are still very focused on the job at hand.”