Temora forward Matt Wallis says the chance to give teammate and club champion Damien Ponting a grand final farewell will be added motivation for Saturday’s Farrer League preliminary final against North Wagga.
The Kangaroos head to Robertson Oval for the third weekend in a row, determined to make amends for a 60-point thrashing by the Saints a fortnight ago.
A spot in the decider against Marrar – their conquerors last year – is the prize and Wallis said they’d love nothing more than to ensure the retiring Ponting, a former Temora coach, gets another shot at success.
“Most definitely, he’s been here for the best part of 12 to 15 years I suppose. It’d be nice to send him out on a high note,” Wallis said.
“Especially after last year, it was so close, and he’s a bloke who’s stuck with the club through thick and thin. He was at the club when they were getting thrashed each week and to send him out on a high on grand final day would be fitting.”
But Wallis said they also owe it to themselves to give a better account of themselves in a final. While the Roos bounced back from that 10-goal loss against North Wagga to beat East Wagga-Kooringal last week, it was an unconvincing performance.
“Oh, 100 percent, if we can’t improve from that then we don’t deserve to be playing finals football,” Wallis said.
“We’ve got lots to improve on and lots of little things we need to start getting right. “If you can’t hit a target with a simple 20-metre kick, well, that’s a conversation we probably shouldn’t be having at this time of year.
“Skills and decision-making are the two biggest things we need to improve on.”
Temora’s finals form is reflected in Wallis’ stats. He and North Wagga forward Daniel Jordan shared the league’s leading goalkicker award, averaging more than four goals a game in the home-and-away season.
They remain tied on 64 goals now after Jordan missed the qualifying final against Temora then kicked one goal in North Wagga’s loss to Marrar last week.
Wallis kicked one against North Wagga but went goal-less for the first time this season in last week’s semi-final win against the Hawks.
He said, having contemplated sitting the year out back in the pre-season, he is feeling the effects of a long year. But it was only last month he kicked eight in a loss at North Wagga.
“It would be good (to get back to that),” he said. “My form lately has been a bit sluggish and to be honest, the body is crying out for a rest – my knee’s been giving me a bit of grief.
“It would be nice to hit the scoreboard a bit more than I have been but at the end of the day, I don’t care who kicks them, as long as someone does and we kick more than they do.”
The Kangaroos have been hurt by the loss of centre-half-forward Mark Breust to retirement. Captain Charlie Vallance has been dangerous in that role but he can be missed across half-back. Jack Irvine has also been a handful as a third option up forward but a hamstring injury has limited his game time in their two finals.
And the return of Tim McAuley last week, for his first senior game in three months, was an eye-catching one but he’s no certainty to back up on Saturday. He was dangerous in the forward line but was shaking his shoulder after a bump in the third quarter. However, he still went into the midfield in the final quarter where he made a difference.
“He hasn’t lost his touch, that’s for sure,” Wallis said. “He’s a pretty talented player but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more of him on the park this year. He’s been battling for a while with his shoulder and backing up from playing league as well, but he’s a damaging player.”
With or without McAuley, Wallis said Temora can’t give North Wagga an inch on Saturday if they want to record their first win against the Saints this season.
He said the Roos backline has been ‘fantastic’ but they can’t expect them to carry the side without a lot of help up the ground.
“You’ve got to maintain pressure for four quarters,” he said. “They’re a brilliant running side – they’re quick, they’re pretty dangerous up forward. We’ve got to stop their effectiveness with the ball.”