The Farrer League faces a moment of truth on Saturday when 22 players step on to Robertson Oval to take on the Riverina League.
The return of the much-anticipated representative rivalry carries a significant responsibility for the squad selected as the Farrer League looks to shed the ‘little brother’ label it often carries.
“It’s certainly a factor. It’s been a long time since we’ve beaten the RFL in a full-length, senior game, so it’s certainly a motivating factor,” Farrer League representative coach, Ryan Forsyth admitted at the team’s final training on Thurday night.
“But it’s like any rep fixture too – you want to get your best players out there and come together as a team well. And I think if that happens, we’ll put ourselves in a position to have that win.”
The Farrer League, like Riverina, has had its share of injuries including key position players Charlie Vallance and Daniel Jordan and midfielders Cal Gardner, Sam Jensen, Jesse Margosis, Chris Gordon and Mitch Haddrill.
But Forsyth and selectors have named a squad with firepower up forward, and options. Matt Wallis (Temora) and Joe Stapleton (CSU) have the key roles while East Wagga-Kooringal big man Nick Hull has been named to start forward, and Temora’s Anthony Atkin rewarded for his good form with the starting ruck role.
“I’m really excited by the players we’ve got available and the side we’ll put on the field. We’ve got a few bigger-bodied players that we’re hoping can do a bit of damage,” Forsyth said.
“In regards to injuries, it’s not something I’m worried about. What it does do, is it gives an opportunity to other blokes who potentially you wouldn’t have considered. A perfect example of that is Jack Reynolds last year and he ended up winning Marrar’s best-and-fairest and coming along in leaps and bounds.”
Northern Jets’ speedster Codan Frankel and CSU midfielder Louis Miller are this year’s bolters, both named on half-forward flanks in their first season in the league.
Ned Mortimer and Tom Morton are in the key defensive roles against a Riverina League side which also has plenty of potency, including prolific goalkicker Marc Geppert and Narrandera coach Jarred Lane, as well the dangerous Ryan Price, Riley Corbett and Nick Ryan.
“They've got some quality forwards, there’s no denying that. I certainly feel like we’ve got the clientele to deal with them, but they’re obviously respected players in the RFL,” Forsyth said.
North Wagga gun Lachie Highfield and East Wagga-Kooringal’s Ben Absolum and Luke Cuthbert have the massive job in the middle against a crack Riverina League line-up of Jayden Klemke, Bryce O’Garey and Shaun Campbell.
“They’ve got some good quality on-ballers who’ll probably roll forward and pose a threat down there as well making their forward line even more potent,” Forsyth said.
“That’ll be an important contest in the middle. I’m confident in the guys that we’ve got there.”
Forsyth acknowledged the Riverina League game will be a step up on last year’s win against Ovens and King in Wangaratta. A good start will be one focus, to avoid having to play catch-up.
“I felt last year, that’s something we did really well in Wangaratta,” he said.
“You get some confidence when you start well and we’ve picked some young guys and it’s infectious when you get a good start. But if not, we’ll deal with it and we’ll manage it as the game progresses.
“There’s some quality players in the Ovens and King but I think the availability (for Riverina League) is a bit better this year. And maybe it’s that grudge factor that you mentioned.
“So yeah, it’s a step up, but it’s exciting for our league.”
Riverina League v Farrer League
(1.45pm, Saturday, at Robertson Oval)
B: M Bailey, T Meline, N McCormack
HB: C Lovell, M Macauley, G Orton
C: T Keogh, S Campbell, L Redfern
HF: J Kennedy, J Lane, R Price
F: R Corbett, M Geppert, N Ryan
Foll: J Olsson, J Klemke, B O’Garey
Inter: J Ashcroft, M Rainbird, M Hillier, M Duncan
Emerg: R Irvin
B: N Dowdle, N Mortimer, L Gerhard
HB: J Reynolds, T Morton, T Yates
C: B Argus, B Absolum, B Moye
HF: C Frankel, J Stapleton, L Miller
F: N Hull, M Wallis, R Block
Foll: A Atkin, L Highfield, L Cuthbert
Inter: T Groves, J Fisher, J Carroll, T Curtis
Emerg: J Winter, J Hoey