There’s no shortage of rivalry between the Orange Tigers and the Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws, never has been, but the two sides also have a healthy dose of respect for one another.
Considering what’s happened so far in the 2017 Central West AFL season you’d be forgiven for thinking there might have been a few shots fired verbally in the lead-up to this weekend’s final regular season round at Country Club Oval, which will decide second.
Tigers skipper Luke Thorley and Bushies co-coach Matt Archer did the opposite though, preferring to heap praise on their opposition.
“Bathurst are a really good side across the paddock … so we’ll need to be really switched on,” Thorley said.
“The Tigers have probably been the form team of the last month, no-one’s been able to get close to them,” Archer said.
“They tend to play pretty well at home too.”
Thorley pointed to a handful of the Bushies’ key players as their real danger, something Archer reciprocated.
“They’ve got great players in key positions, guys like Tim Hunter, Matt Archer, Nath Belbin,” Thorley said.
“I think a lot of it comes down to trying to keep them quiet.”
“[Orange’s] midfield is always strong, and they’ve had Josh Bubnich back since last month,” Archer explained.
“But even before he was back they were still tough through the middle with guys like Brent Tucker, Mitch McKenna and Simon Kay.
“If you can’t nullify those guys in the middle then you won’t be a chance.”
Although the Tigers are four points in front of the Bushies, the Outlaws’ percentage is far superior so, basically, whichever side wins will finish second.
Orange is coming off a strong win, while the Outlaws dropped last weekend’s game to cross-city rivals Bathurst Giants – an upset, to say the least.
“We’re still confident in our ability. We were disappointed last week not so much with the result but more with the way we went about the game,” Archer said.
“We need to be putting in a better effort. We’ve probably taken a step back but we’re confident we can get ourselves back to the level we were playing before.
“We shied away from our responsibilities, and that’s something that started from the top and fed down.
“We went away from what we wanted to do, and we spent too long trying to kick the ball down the line … and trying to clear it from the half-back line. We’ve got to focus on running more with the ball and getting back on top in the midfield.”
The Tigers host the Outlaws in the final round of the regular season from 2.30pm Saturday.