THE midfield tussle and battle to win the centre clearances – they are areas that Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels co-coach Steve Grundy has identified as critical in Saturday’s match against the Bathurst Giants.
Once strugglers in the Central West AFL senior competition, the development of the young talent within the Giants’ ranks and addition of more experienced players to their roster means they are now a genuine threat.
With last Saturday’s match between the Rebels and Tigers postponed, Grundy took the chance to watch club-mates the Outlaws take on the Giants.
It was a match the Giants won by 12 points and it demonstrated to Grundy the threat his Bathurst rival poses in the centre of the paddock.
“Most of us were up there watching, it was a really entertaining game. It only really blew out late in the game, it was really tight, physical footy for most of it,” he said.
“They’ve recruited well and have got a pretty good midfield, so we know that winning the ball in that midfield is going to be crucial.
“Outlaws and Rebels are different teams and we do have different strengths. It’s hard to tell, but from what I can see, Giants are strong all over the park, especially in the midfield.
“They’ve really improved with their centre clearances, so I will be asking for a lot from my midfield this weekend.”
Needing a strong performance in the midfield is certainly nothing new for the Rebels. Winning centre clearances means more ball inside 50 and more scoring chances.
Though that is an area of the field where the Rebels are still working on their combinations given the changes in their roster from last season, Grundy has faith in his men.
In particular he will be looking for the experienced Sebastian Matheson to give Rebels the edge in the ruck.
“Quite frankly the game is won or lost in the midfield. If your midfield can win the ball more often that the opposite team, more often than not you are going to win the game,” he said.
“I think I’ve got blokes that can put up a very good contest in the middle, but we can’t afford to have any lapses. As seen on the weekend, it was probably only a 10-minute period in that fourth quarter where the Giants have won a couple of clearances in a row and that changed the momentum of the game.
“Sebas was last year’s league best and fairest and I would rate him as the best ruckman in the comp, so I think we should hopefully get first use of the ball.
“My midfield haven’t played a lot of football together – that’s a challenge Rebels and Outlaws face every year putting together a new team – but I’ve got some very talented footballers in there and I’m backing them to have a good day.
“There’s always a lot of feeling in our games and the Giants had a really good win over our club-mates last weekend, so it should be a very close game and we’ll prepare ourselves as well as we can.
Opening bounce is at 2.30pm at George Park 2, while the Lady Bushrangers and Giants women square off at 12.45pm.