Orange Tigers boom midfielder Michael Rothnie is certain his side can return to their best in Saturday’s Central West AFL preliminary final against the Bathurst Giants, but the black and golds will have to do so with him on the sidelines.
Although he was initially hopeful of recovering in time, Rothnie confirmed on Friday afternoon that he’ll miss the sudden-death grand final qualifier after straining his hamstring in last weekend’s major semi-final.
It’s a massive blow for the Tigers, particularly considering they’re trying to wrestle their way out of a month-long rut in which they’ve dropped three out of four games, including that major play-off.
“I’m hoping to be right for the grand final, so hopefully we get through,” Rothnie said.
“Honestly, I just think the fire hasn’t been in the belly the last month. After we knew we’d won the minor premiership we definitely took our foot off the pedal.
“I’m sure we, as well as the rest of the league, know that we have the best side on paper and can produce much better footy than we have, we just have to do that.”
He was at somewhat of a loss to explain last weekend’s defeat too, which came after a stunning fourth-quarter blitz from the Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels.
The Tigers led at all three breaks, before the Rebels kicked five goals one to a lone behind in the fourth term.
“We came out fresh and were always a step ahead, I can’t really explain that fourth quarter,” Rothnie lamented.
“I guess the ball just never came into our forward 50 so we obviously couldn’t convert.”
Rothnie said his side is expecting the Giants, chasing their maiden decider appearance, to come out all guns blazing at Waratahs Sportsground too.
While he conceded the Giants’ win at the same ground in round 13 will give the Bathurst side confidence, he pointed to another result that does the same for the Tigers.
“We kept them goalless in [round eight] with the same side we’ve named (for Saturday),” Rothnie said.
“With them trying to grab their maiden grand final spot they’ll be as tough as it gets though, they’ll definitely bring their best side.
“I think the bigger ground will dictate the outcome of the weekend. It’ll come down to who executes the running game the best.”
The Tigers are expected to receive the welcome boost of Tim Barry’s return on Saturday though, the league’s leading goal-kicker with 71 majors.
First bounce in Saturday’s preliminary final is at 2.30pm, following the women’s play-off between the Bathurst Bushrangers and Giants.
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