They’ve shared the spoils so far this season but the third meeting this year between Bathurst Bulldogs and Orange Emus will be the one that decides everything.
A hard fought passage through the finals series will fire the Bulldogs up for Saturday’s Blowes Clothing Cup second grade grand final at Endeavour Oval but standing in their path are last season’s runners-up, who will be buoyed by the home ground advantage.
Bulldogs had the early bragging rights over the Emus this season before the greens struck back in the second meeting of the year. It was the last match of the regular season and one which would decide who would finish as minor premiers.
The greens rallied late to overcome Bulldogs 29-24 at Endeavour Oval.
Those are the kind of results that whet the appetite for a special grand final clash.
The last round loss for Bulldogs may have denied them the easier path to the grand final but the long road has given the Bathurst club plenty of valuable experience.
Confidence boosts don’t get better than overcoming a team you’ve failed to get through all year, and that’s what the Bulldogs achieved with their preliminary final success against Forbes Platypi.
However, Emus won’t be short on motivation.
They came incredibly close to the premiership last year when they went down 21-17 to a red-hot Dubbo Kangaroos side, also losing the 2015 grand final to Orange City. Both were at Endeavour Oval.
Bulldogs co-coach Al Fryer said the main step to overcoming the Emus is dealing with their size.
“I expect Emus to stick with their strong forwards play. They love bashing it through there,” he said.
“Our blokes will do well in attack. We have no trouble getting points, it’s just about containing the Emus in defence. If we can match them physically then we’re right in it.”
We have no trouble getting points, it’s just about containing the Emus in defence.Bulldogs co-coach Al Fryer
Fryer said beating Forbes after three previous unsuccessful attempts came down to learning from early mistakes.
“It was a great result after the year we’d had against them,” he said.
“It was a massive confidence boost and you could see it at training. Everyone’s really excited for this game.
“We got up because we stuck to our game plan. We were down 10-0 early but we just stuck to our patterns and picked up our defence.
“A couple of games this year have been the opposite for us, where we’ve started strong then gone to sleep. We need to play at our best for every minute.”
Second grade gets underway from 1.30pm at Endeavour Oval.
- BATHURST BULLDOGS: 1 Joel Harper, 2 Matui Mahia, 3 Semisi Langi, 4 Brad Donnelly, 5 Vinnie Reyland, 6 Sam Maher, 7 Al Kent, 8 Tom Fitzsimmons, 9 Kurt Weekes, 10 Cameron Sinclair, 11 Jack Gunter, 12 Hayden Christie-Johnson, 13 Josh Weekes, 14 Ben Sheppard, 15 Justin Mobbs ©; Bench: 16 Jock Suttor, 17 Angus Doulman, 18 Dylan Carter, 19 Riley Hanrahan, 20 Mick Anderson, 21 Dale Norris, 22 Brent Dennis, 23 Harry Peacock.
- ORANGE EMUS: 1 Matt Findlay, 2 Keith Howarth, 3 Steve Fergus, 4 Damo Harton ©, 5 Jack Hart, 6 Sam Greatbatch, 7 Tom MacSmith, 8 Bill Travers, 9 Sam Green, 10 Joe Melino, 11 Jake Roberts, 12 Simon Thompson ©, 13 Levi Russell, 14 Ted Hoskin-Murray, 15 James Simmons; Bench: 16 Al Hattersley, 17 Drew Bale, 18 Mark Grivas, 19 Peter Brus, 20 Matt Campbell, 21 Aidan Baker, 22 Derek Thompson, 23 Matt Clark