Last year it was all smiles for Luke Berkrey’s return to Les Boyd Oval, but the former Cootamundra coach is expecting a very different greeting on Saturday.
Berkrey scored a try in the 76-12 win, but 12 months on Gundagai will take on a much improved opponent.
Now the Bulldogs sit above them on the ladder and already have a win over last year’s grand finalists to their credit.
Berkrey is expecting a much tougher homecoming this time around.
“It is a lot different this year compared to last year,” Berkrey said.
“With all due respect Coota were probably struggling this time last year when we went over there to play them and this year they are obviously going a lot better.
“I try not to think about it too much and it is just another game I guess.”
Berkrey doesn’t want to focus on the individual aspect of the clash.
Instead he’s looking to make sure the Tigers stay in the thick of the finals race.
“It’s not really about me, we just need to start playing a lot better than what we have been,” he said. “We’ve won two in a row and just need to keep that going for a while.”
Only two points separate the two sides and both are just outside the top four.
Cootamundra are fifth but only by percentage with the Tigers hot on their heels following wins over Tumut and Temora.
After a standout season, Berkrey has struggled with injuries so far in 2018.
Shoulder and knee complaints have just been the tip of the iceberg for the damaging lock.
However after the week off his body is feeling better.
Gundagai are expecting another boost in the forward pack.
Joel Field has been named return from a broken scaphoid.
The front rower hasn’t played since round four and Berkrey believes he’ll be a big addition, especially after the loss of Kieran Pearce.
“Pearcey will be a big loss and not just on the field for us,” he said.
“He did a lot that probably a lot of people didn;t know about off the field with the committee and the community.”
Field needs to come through a fitness test at training on Friday night before getting the all clear.
“Hopefully he plays as I think Coota’s strength is probably their forward pack so I think we are going to need him,” Berkrey said.
After coming from behind to down Temora before the bye, Gundagai coach James Smart is looking for his team to be switched on for longer periods of the game this time around.
Cootamundra also welcome Chris Maher back from injury.