East Wagga-Kooringal coach Matt Hard is looking forward to seeing who from the Hawks rises to the occasion in Sunday’s elimination final.
After 10 years at Coolamon, Hard will get his first glimpse of the Hawks in finals when they take on Charles Sturt University at Robertson Oval.
Hard hopes his team can stand up to be counted in the heat of finals.
“I suppose I’m hoping so. If you don’t stand up now then you’re not fair dinkum,” Hard said.
“The boys have been really good throughout the year and have put the work in.
“As for finals, this is when you’re judged as a footballer. Being able to handle the big moments, that’s what you want to be renowned for.
“No one remembers whether you got a kick or not in June, now is the time you want to stand up and be counted.”
The Hawks hope to boost their chances with the inclusion of a number of key players.
EWK games record holder Brenton Roberts will return from injury, as will key forward James Hodges.
Also available for selection and to come back into the team is Harry Fitzsimmons, Nick Curran, Scott Burge, Joe Banks and Kassidy Argus.
“Hopefully we get a few back this week but they have still got to get through training,” he said.
“Apart from Ben Absolum and Fynn De Bono, we will have a full list to pick from, which is exciting because it hasn’t happened for a long time.
“We’ve been hit really hard by injuries over the last four to six weeks but we’re starting to get them back, now we’ve just got to find the right balance for Sunday.”
EWK have beaten CSU on both occasions this season. They downed the Bushpigs by 10 points at Peter Hastie Oval in June and then repeated the dose with a 13-point victory in tough conditions at Gumly Oval a fortnight ago.
CSU are back in finals for the first time since 2010 and Hard is not underestimating the students.
“They’re a very good side, very even across the paddock,” he said.
“They had a really good win against Temora. We just got past them twice but there was nothing in it both times.
“They definitely deserve their spot in finals and it should be a good game.”
After enjoying finals success with Coolamon and Northern Jets in the past, Hard is excited by what lies ahead for EWK.
“Absolutely, it’s why you become involved in team sport, to have success,” he said.
“We made a goal at the start of the year to play finals and we’ve ticked that box. Now we’re in the first round of finals and we’re really excited.
“It’s obviously my first year at the footy club and I’m ecstatic and really looking forward to Sunday.”