TTM Canberra Raiders Cup: Major Semi-Final Preview
Queanbeyan Blues v Goulburn Workers Bulldogs on Sunday at 3:00pm at Seiffert Oval
It’s only fitting that a Grand Final re-match between the Queanbeyan Blues and the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs at the same venue as the 2014 decider will bear the fruits of another Grand Final appearance for whichever team comes out on top after 80 hard fought minutes this Sunday.
Fittingly, this match has all the attributes of a classic display of rugby league.
First and foremost, there is a strong rivalry that has increased in intensity during recent years and with a spot in the Grand Final up for grabs, things are sure to get heated once more.
Furthermore, this match will not only bring together some of the very best players from the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup, but also from the Canberra Region representative team which Blues Coach Simon Woolford was in charge of.
And both sides have form on the board, with each club heading into the encounter with two wins in a row, following a minor mutual slump sustained roughly three quarters of the way through the season.
“It will be a high quality affair and both sides are close to full strength as well which is good for this time of the year,” said experienced Blues forward Aaron McInness, a member of last year’s premiership winning side.
“We lost a couple of games during the season but we’ve overcome that with back-to-back wins over Tuggeranong and Belconnen United and we’re heading into the Major Semi-Final with confidence.
“We’ve played each other enough over the last couple of years that we both know each other’s game but semi-finals comes down to enthusiasm and who wants it more on the day. We’re ready to fire on Sunday and we will need to be at our best because Goulburn has quality right across the park.”
The two sides have met twice in 2015 with each club snaring a victory.
Queanbeyan defeated Goulburn 32-22 in Round 3, however the Bulldogs got one back on the Blues in Round 10 with a 30-4 victory.
“Goulburn will have a point to prove on Sunday. We’ve had a couple of good battles with them recently, we obviously got the better of them in the Grand Final last year and we’re one apiece this year, so both sides will be champing at the bit for this game, especially with a Grand Final spot up for grabs,” McInness said.
Queanbeyan and Goulburn finished in first and second place on the ladder during the regular season and as such the team that is defeated on Sunday will get another bite at the cherry the following weekend against the West Belconnen Warriors.
However, whilst there is a safety net there, both sides will not be heading into the Major Semi-Final with any sort of complacency, they want to secure a spot in the Grand Final immediately.
“We don’t want any complacency this week,” McInness said. “We want to head straight into the Grand Final. As a team, we need to have 17 blokes putting their hand up to work hard and put their best foot forwards. We want to head into the Grand Final with momentum.”
Given that the match is played at the Blues home ground of Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan heads into the match with some advantage, however the Bulldogs are renowned for having a passionate bunch of travelling supporters, particularly at the business end of the season.
“Goulburn has a really good crowd following and they do have a lot of supporters that will travel, but hopefully a few Queanbeyanites will get out to the game to counter the travelling Goulburn crowd,” McInness said.
McInness highlighted the Picker trio of brothers Ben, Mick and Joe as the players Queanbeyan needs to watch out for along with former NRL flyer Michael Bani at fullback.
Whilst for his own side, he predicts big games by Canberra Region representatives Tom Ruediger and Tyler Stevens in the backline on the back of the good service provided by premiership winning halves Ben Nicol and Marc Herbert.