NO fear, no inhibitions – that is how Bathurst Bulldogs coach Dean Oxley wants his men to play in this Saturday’s major semi-final against Orange Emus.
If they can do that, then Oxley believes they can win at Endeavour Oval for the first time this year and earn hosting right rights for the 2018 Blowes Clothing Cup grand final.
While Bulldogs beat Emus at Ashwood Park earlier this season, prevailing 39-35, twice they have returned from Endeavour empty-handed.
“The goal all year has been around beating Emus at Emus, if we can beat them up there we then deserve to be in the grand final,” Oxley said.
“It would be nice to say we are able to beat Emus at Emus, it has been a long while since we’ve done that. It’s not really about records or anything like that, but we need to demonstrate that we can beat every team at every location and that’s the only one that is still waiting for us.”
Oxley’s team for the semi-final features plenty of speed in the back line with the likes of Harry Webber and Will Oldham, Blowes Clothing Cup player of the year Brad Glasson to steer them around from flyhalf and NSW Country representative Peter Fitzsimmons at number 8.
On top of that, his bench includes another speedster in Riley Hanrahan and the experienced heads of Scott Johnston, Phil Tonkin and Adam Dwyer.
But no matter who is on the paddock at any given time, Oxley wants them to showcase the skills which earned them a place in major semi-final. He wants them to show confidence.
“Nothing has to change, so what we do well is what I’m professing at the moment,” he said.
“We will go up there and play without fear, which is what I want from the boys. I’m requiring them to be able to do things with an increasing intensity, but with the same processes that we’ve had all year.
“The goal is to go up there and play the football we have all season with no inhibitions – the big push from me this weekend is just to back ourselves and have that youthful exuberance.
“I’m not looking for arm wrestles in the finals. I know that they can eventuate, but I don’t want that to be the case. If that happens I believe it will be the case that we’ve put away our skill set and decided to worry about making mistakes and that is totally against when I am trying to encourage within the player base.”
Oxley has his fingers crossed that Bulldogs do not encounter a wet playing surface, as a dry Endeavour Oval much better suits the brand of rugby he wants.
But even if the predicted rain falls, the experienced coach has faith his men can adapt and prove themselves capable of winning at the venue.
That Bulldogs ended a nine-game losing streak at the hands of Emus with their four-point triumph at Ashwood Park in May shows that they have the ability to do so.
“I have no fear of playing at Endeavour, it’s just another venue as far as I’m concerned. Emus obviously enjoy it and they feel confident there, but because I’ve got young group I don’t really think history between the two clubs there comes into play,” he said.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 3.15pm.