Tigers wary of Giants’ blistering speed on wide expanse of fortress Waratahs

STEPPING UP: Tigers midfielder Lucas Kelly will be shouldering a heavier load this weekend in the absence of Michael Rothnie and Mitch McKenna. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN
STEPPING UP: Tigers midfielder Lucas Kelly will be shouldering a heavier load this weekend in the absence of Michael Rothnie and Mitch McKenna. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

Speed kills. 

Both on the roads, which is where the slogan was made famous, but also on the football field. 

While the Orange Tigers have some pace in reserve – think Sandun Walisera, Kirk Phillips and Pierce Frecklington – their opponents this weekend in the Bathurst Giants have speed to burn.

The Tigers have comfortably dealt with the competition’s youngest side twice in season 2018, both games have been on the cramped George Park top oval which – despite being the Giants’ home ground – gives the young squad little wriggle room on the outside where they do their strongest work. 

That said, the Tigers have made Waratahs Sportsground a fortress this year, winning every game they’ve played and making the blustery winds, the sun’s reflection off the lake and the wide wings work for them. 

An even bigger factor might be a psychological one – the Giants have never beaten the Tigers and the last time the two sides clashed the Tigers held the young Giants goalless on their own turf. 

The Giants sit third, equal on points with the Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels in a share for second but slightly behind their cross-city rivals on percentage, meaning they need every win they can get on the run home to win the double chance. 

Tigers coach Dale Hunter said he is expecting the Giants to come out firing, especially after the last loss his side inflicted on them. 

“I think they’ll back themselves to use their youth and speed, and I’ve heard them saying they’re pretty confident they can do that,” he said.

“But they still have to win the contested ball, even on a big ground (like Waratahs).

“[The loss] will give them more drive, they were pretty embarrassed on the day and it wasn’t a reflection of who they are and how far they’ve come as a club.”

The Tigers will be missing two of their big contested-ball winners in Michael Rothnie and Mitch McKenna and with Chris Rothnie also unavailable Hunter is backing the under-sung members of the midfield brigade to step up in their absence.

Hunter listed Lucas Kelly and Andrew Henry as two he would look to lead the midfield, with a rotation of players like Dan Sadler, Jaxon Mumme and the returning Logan Crimp all likely to see big minutes in the Tigers’ midfield. 

Hunter says the Tigers will “focus on ourselves” instead of worrying about the opposition, but he did concede the Giants’ midfield is strong too, paying his side’s rivals their due respect.

“I’ll back our side in and our back six and they’ve been really good, conceding only two goals last week,” he said. 

“It’s up to our mids to win the clearances and the half forwards to make sure the ball doesn’t get down there.” 

While the Katrina Hobby Memorial Shield will also only take place for the women’s game, Hunter said his side would still get a lift out of the special day. 

“She was a good member of the club and she played for us, she was a Tiger, so we’ll dig deep for her,” he said.

First bounce at Waratahs is at 2.30pm.

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