SEVERAL big names will be missing, but Young captain-coach James Woolford is still treating Saturday’s trial against Tuggeranong as the perfect precursor to the Group Nine premiership.
With Young fresh from thrashing Cowra 36-14 in a trial at Cowra on Sunday, Woolford is intent on the Cherrypickers being at their sharpest when they play the Bushrangers.
“This (trial) will be played like an actual (premiership) game,” Woolford said.
“It’s our last trial before we play Gundagai (in the first round) and we want to get plenty out of it.”
Already tagged as one of the leading contenders for the Group Nine title this year, Young will open the premiership against the Tigers at Anzac Park on April 2.
“It’s a tough way to start,” Woolford said.
“They’re (Gundagai) a good side – they’ve been a good side for a long time – and they always play so well at home.
“We’ll still be out to try to assert our authority on the competition.”
Beforehand, Woolford is fiercely determined to get the most out of Saturday’s trial at Alfred Oval.
Despite the absence of key forwards Kyle Richens (honeymoon) and Visesio Setefano (knee) and slippery fullback Tom Bush, Young will have no shortage of firepower, including star prop Aaron Slater and dynamic halfback Raymond Talimalie.
The recruitment of Talimalie is emerging as a massive plus for Young, with Woolford declaring the halfback is the ideal player to “steer” the team in 2017.
“It’ll give me the chance to concentrate on doing my job,” Woolford said.
With Talimalie relieving the pressure, Woolford is sure to make an even more commanding impact in 2017 than his homecoming season last year.
For Young, Tuggeranong will provide a stiff test and a great lead up to the dice with Gundagai next month.
The Bushrangers won six of 16 games in the Canberra Raiders Cup last year, finishing sixth of eight teams, but are tipped to challenge for the finals this time around.
Woolford knows Tuggeranong will be a formidable obstacle.
“They beat a Wollongong side in a trial last weekend and they play in a tough comp,” he said.
Woolford, however, is adamant the Cherrypickers will be ready for the Canberra team.
“I’m really pleased with our pre-season,” he said.
“The boys have been working well since November.”
The inclusion of Talimalie and Setefano in particular has helped to take Young to a new level in 2017.
“They (recruits) have gelled really well,” Woolford said.
“They love to play around and have really upped the tempo.”
Young caught the eye at the West Wyalong Knockout in February, beating West Wyalong (12-0) in the first round before losing 7-6 to Southcity in a quarter-final, courtesy of a Kyle McCarthy field goal.
“It was good to blow the cobwebs away, but it’s also hard to get too much out of 15 minute halves” Woolford said.
“All things were positive though.”
Saturday’s trial will start at 3pm and will be played over two 40 minute halves.