It was sleeting sideways at Waratahs Sportsground on Saturday for Orange Tigers’ make-up clash with Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels, making for the worst possible conditions you could get on a football field.
In a game that more closely resembled a rolling scrum that an Australian Rules match, it was Tigers who took to the field like a pig in mud, grinding out a 5.7-37 to 3.8-26 win in a dour affair.
Only one goal was kicked in the first quarter and it very quickly apparent that not only were no marks going to be taken or handballs caught – there was only one thing players would be catching: hypothermia.
With the ball heavy as lead, slippery as an eel and the ground as soft as a ripe avocado, only one goal came in the first quarter – off the boot of 50-gamer Tim Barry – and after two goals at the end of the second quarter, the Tigers didn’t look like falling behind as the hacked and punched the ball forward.
That is, until the final minute of the third quarter when Rebels slipped past the back of Tigers undermanned defence to make the margin just two goals.
Rebels won a free kick out of the middle at the start of the last quarter and suddenly and it was game on, and the Tigers had to lift, repelling the ball again and again before finally pinballing it down the other end for a Sandun Welisara goal.
Milestone man Barry said the game was a “grind”.
“It's not pretty footy, not dissimilar to what we did last week and that’s something we want to pride ourselves on, winning those games,” he said.
It wasn’t a good day to be a big man, but Barry said the wet conditions gave a few players a chance to step up.
“A few players underestimate themselves a bit, Welisara, Chris Pethybridge, Kirky Phillips, those sort of guys really shone through,” he said.
“We’ve sort of settled with the midfield, and Chris Rothnie went back and steadied us up and Jackson Mumme was good in the wet and he makes it look easy at times but I think the standouts were Phillips and Sandun on the wings, for some little blokes they set the tone for us.”
We want to pride ourselves on winning those games.Tim Barry
Barry said it was a treat to get the win in a milestone game, too.
“I mean we have a good rivalry with them and we’ve played against them for a number of years and it’s always good to challenge yourself against the better sides. We lost last time by kicking badly and not being involved so it’s nice to get one back,” he said.
“[Fifty games] been a little while coming, missed 12 months with the foot and 12 months in Wagga. It’s a special place for me, won a couple of flags here and to get there is pretty special.”
Rebels coach Steve Grundy said the conditions were “definitely up there” as some of the worst he’d seen on a football field, adding the other few games in contention were also in Orange.
“In those conditions your game plan goes out the window and it becomes a game of determination and which side is more prepared to put their head over the ball,” he said.
“It was very challenging and I was really impressed with they way we went about it – I couldn’t be unhappy with their effort.”
Grundy said the turning point was Tigers kicking two goals in five minutes to end the first half.
“In those conditions two goals is a lot,” he said.
The Rebels lost ruckman Seb Matheson early to concussion after a clash of heads, but injuries mounted for both sides across the day, with neither side finishing with a full bench.
ORANGE TIGERS 5.7-37 (Tim Barry, Luke Thorley, Sandun Welisara, Dan Sadler, Lucas Kelly) defeated BATHURST BUSHRANGERS REBELS 3.8-26 (Tom Cook, Ben Horn, Matt Archer).