Blackheath was far and away the best side in the 2018 New Era Cup’s regular season, the Blackcats won the minor premiership undefeated and nine points clear, boasted the best numbers with and without the ball and also finished with a whopping points difference of 398.
They also bested the next best side, Orange Barbarians, twice, winning 28-4 at their Don Bradman Oval home and then 36-0 on the road at Max Stewart Park.
Blackheath hosts Barbarians in this weekend’s major semi-final and, with all that in mind, the most prudent question is a simple one – is the Orange side any hope of knocking the Blackcats off?
“Absolutely,” Barbarians five-eighth Mitch Britt fired, he’s supremely confident his side can cause the most monumental of boilover results.
“I definitely think we’re capable of beating them,” Barbarians centre Ed Morrish agreed.
“One thing is that both times we played Blackheath we didn’t play well, I’d say we bombed about 10 or so tries across the two games, because of little errors.”
“It was ball handling, that kind of thing,” Britt said.
“When we get all those little things right I think we’re the best team in the competition, hopefully we do get them right this weekend.”
While upsetting Blackheath is motivation in itself, winning the club’s first grand final berth and hosting that decider as well is a driving force for Barbarians.
“Of course it is, who wants to go to Blackheath?” Britt laughed.
One thing the Britt and Morrish hope will give their Orange side a boost is their combination.
They play on the same side, they’re also best mates and they work together too – basically, they know each other inside-out.
“I actually only came to Barbarians after Britty asked me to come over, it’s good to play with him,” Morrish, who had a stint at Orange Emus in the 15-man code prior to joining Barbarians, said.
“We do have a bit of a combination down that edge, which I think is helpful.”
“Yeah, it’s just a pity I have to do all your (defensive) work,” Britt laughed.
Even without captain-coach Ben Gosper, who misses the semi-final with a broken thumb, the duo says their side boasts threats all over the park before pointing to one of Blackheath’s danger men as particularly threatening.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Matt Ranse, who has taken the competition by storm this year and will coach the Eastern side in this season’s inaugural All Stars clash next month.
“He’s been good this year, Ranse, but I think their five-eighth (Jesse) Lualua is actually a bigger danger,” Morrish said.
”Yeah, I think so too, people seem to forget him about a bit,” Britt added.
Both Britt and Morrish will face Ranse’s Eastern All Stars side too, they’ve been named in the Western equivalent for the clash at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on Saturday, August 4.
“It’ll be good fun, it’s a good concept, it gives everyone a way to play some rep footy,” Morrish said.
“It’ll be good to mingle in with the blokes from the other clubs, too,” Britt added.
The Barbarians face Blackheath from 2.30pm in Saturday’s major semi-final, at Don Bradman Oval.
The winner earns a week off and hosts the grand final, while the loser will host the preliminary final against CSU Bathurst next weekend.