Temora coach Jake Wooden has called on his midfielders to steer the Kangaroos to their first win against North Wagga this season when the teams meet in Saturday’s qualifying final at Robertson Oval.
But Temora took plenty of heart out of that second performance when they matched North Wagga for scoring shots, including an eight-goal haul to Roos’ spearhead Matt Wallis who, with Charlie Vallance and Jack Irvine, caused plenty of headaches for the Saints.
At the other end of the ground, Temora’s back six kept Saints forward Daniel Jordan to two goals.
“I’m going to be expecting a lot of our midfield this week,” Wooden said.
“Our mids have definitely got to get on top and need to be getting it in to Wally really quickly. I read that (Brayden) Skeers is going to play on Wally again. He’s only half his size and if we can get it in quick, he’ll win it nine times out of 10.
“I thought Rex (Chris Stacey) played extremely well on Jordan last time and our back six held up really well.
“What let us down was our midfield. I’m looking for a lift from them to get on top early.”
Jordan (63 goals in 13 games) and Wallis (63 goals in 15 games) shared the league’s leading goalkicker title this season and can be close to unstoppable if the ball is coming in cleanly.
Clearly, the Roos are focussed on a strong start. The Saints kicked only three second half goals at Temora and only two in the last quarter in the return fixture.
“Our pressure and intensity is really important and if we can start well, that’ll go a long way towards beating them,” Wooden said.
“Their games that I've watched, in the second half they haven’t really been putting teams away. It’s their starts that set them up so if we can stay with them or go in up at half-time, it will really set us up for a big second half.”
There’s no Tim McAuley return for Temora, with the midfielder opting to play rugby league, and the Roos – who were just getting used to life without Mark Breust – have also lost backman Rob Grant for finals after it was discovered he had in fact suffered fractures in a recent wrist and hand injury.
“He’s going for surgery – he got another scan after all the bruising went down and it turns out he’s got a broken thumb and about six ligaments are stuffed,” Wooden said.
Wooden says last week’s bye has freshened his team up and they’re ready to step up things up a notch at the business end of the season.
“It’s a good time of year to be playing footy and the boys are excited,” Wooden said.
“It’s a different vibe this year, straight away. We’re a lot more focussed and switched on whereas we were a bit laid back last year going into finals. The senior boys are having a lot to say and I think they realise everyone will have to dig deep this year whereas last year, we probably relied on a few players.
The Roos beat North Wagga in last year’s qualifying final when Wallis (nine goals) led them to an eight-point win on a day when they lost key forward Matt Harpley early. It set them on track towards their grand final appearance.
“Training’s been good, our preparation’s been good. Now it’s time to go out and see what we’ve got,” Wooden said.
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