Confidence – it’s a word that both Bathurst St Pat’s and Souths are using heading into Saturday’s men’s Premier League Hockey preliminary final.
The do-or-die derby will mark the first time the Bathurst sides have met in a final since 2009 and the battle to join Lithgow Panthers in the decider is expected to be intense.
While St Pat’s heads into the match after missing out in last Saturday’s major semi-final penalty shoot-out against Panthers, coach Shane Conroy feels his men can bounce back.
“We’ve got confidence in our own ability, we’ve got our own game plan and if we stick to that, I’m confident we can get the result,” he said.
“I think the mood was really positive at training on Tuesday night, we’re all really keen and the boys are champing at the bit and ready to go.
“It’s a local derby, you always want bragging rights, so any time you play them it’s always a high intensity game.”
The head-to-head between the pair this season stands at one win apiece and both of those were closely contested – Pat’s winning the first 2-1 before Souths replied with a 3-2 result.
While Conroy feels those results count for little heading into the grand final qualifier, he will use what he learned from those encounters.
“It’s crucial that we play our own game. They’ve got their own style of play and we can’t afford to play their style - that’s what they want,” he said.
“We’ve got to hold our own structures and that’s something we didn’t do last time we played them.
“There are definitely things from that game that I’m going to focus on improving, you’d be silly if you didn’t learn anything, but we’re just going to stick to our game.
“Whoever settles into the game first will be crucial, so we’ll be focusing on that first 10-15 minutes and making sure we’re ready.”
Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith was delighted with what he saw last Saturday when his side beat Lithgow Zig Zag 6-3 in the minor semi-final.
He believes that his side will be able to get over the top of the Saints and qualify for a second consecutive grand final if they can replicate that effort.
“I think it’s exciting, the boys are really looking forward to it,” he said.
“We are confident if we play like we did last week, we are confident on what we have been doing and think we’ve got the team to do it.
“The boys are certainly never lacking in confidence when they play Pat’s and there’s no bigger game than this in finals, a do-or-die local derby.
“We are peaking at the right time of year and have got that momentum. We are playing a quality style of hockey, an attacking style and it’s working well for us, we';ve shown that we can score a lot of goals, our conversion rate over the last couple of weeks has been good.”
As Winwood-Smith indicated, Souths has scored 14 goals in winning their last three games.
That includes the 3-2 victory over the Saints, a result which the coach feels offers his men further confidence.
“We haven't really talked about that win, but it does give the guys confidence knowing they've beaten them before, knowing that you can do it,” he said
“It means they go into the game knowing that if they play their best, they can beat them.
“They’re fast, they’re fit and they’re young, so we don’t want to get into a running battle with them. The key for us is keeping to the style we’ve been playing and which has been working for us.
“I really don’t care what they do, it’s about what we can do, we’ll focus on us.”
Saturday’s preliminary final at Bob Roach Field will commence at 2.30pm.