Will Bunt has coached Australian rules sides at numerous level for six years but he’s never had a week like he’s endured leading into Saturday’s minor semi-final.
The Dubbo Demons travel to Bathurst on Saturday to take on the Bushranger Outlaws in a do-or-die Central West AFL clash.
For so much of the year, Bunt, his assistant Shayne Wilesmith and captain Ben Madigan have struggled to name a team each week due player availability issues.
But leading in to the biggest game of the season, the bulk of the large squad was available.
“This is the hardest week for selection I’ve ever had,” Bunt said.
“You want to look after the blokes who have been committed to the club and turned up all year while also wanting to get the best side you’ve had this season on the park.
“It’s been a hard week and you’re trying to look after blokes while also picking the best side because it’s do-or-die.”
While it was difficult for the trio, the squad which has been named is booming with talent.
Availability is still an issue as young gun Dean Gould and forward Brendan Garlett are missing while there was no place in the squad for veteran Greg Sutton.
“He’s probably the one who can feel the unluckiest to miss out,” Bunt said.
“He is the first emergency now if anyone should miss out but he is unlucky. He’s a life member and played more than 250 games so it was tough.”
The Demons are yet to beat the Outlaws this year but the Dubbo side heads to George Park on Saturday full of confidence.
Last weekend’s hugely impressive victory over the minor premiership-winning Bathurst Bushranger Rebels filled the Demons with belief while the Outlaws head into the game after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in the side’s history.
“It puts all the pressure on Bathurst because we’ve got belief and we’ve shown our level of skill and matched that with the aggression and desire and we’re going to Bathurst full of confidence,” Bunt said.
“They’re a bit of the glamour club of the competition and they’re at home so the pressure is on them and we’ve got nothing to lose.
“The biggest thing we’ve said is to go out and have fun.”
With the likes of Hamish Pearce and Jono Naden patrolling the midfield and pushing the ball forward, the Demons are guaranteed to get chances against what Bunt said is a “smallish” Outlaws backline.
But taking those chances and not allowing the hosts to counter-attack will go along way to deciding whose season goes on.
“They’ve got a smallish backline but they’re fast and skillful so we can’t let them spread it and run because they’ll kill us,” he said.
“If we can block that and convert the chances when we get the ball forward then I think we’ll be alright.
“Our backline is strong and we defend well but when we get it up to the forwards we need to convert.”
Saturday’s match starts from 12pm with the major semi- between the Rebels and Orange to follow.