For a team that won 12 straight games in the course of the home-and-away season, North Wagga head into Saturday’s preliminary final against Temora having dropped two of their last three matches.
But coach Kirk Hamblin is backing his team’s resilience. He says the reality of those results isn’t as simple as it might read.
“I definitely think the boys are a mature enough playing group to move on,” Hamblin said.
“The two losses we had were against a quality team. We had opportunities to win both those games and we let them slip both times. But I’ve definitely been happy with our year and we’re looking forward to tomorrow. The boys will be right.”
The newly-minted Farrer League coach of the year isn’t necessarily demanding improvement from last week, believing the way they played is good enough, provided they fix up their issues going forward.
But they haven’t dwelled on the loss to Marrar, quickly turning their attention to Temora who stand in the way of their first grand final since 2004.
“The massive emphasis this week is that we’ve got a job to do against Temora. The day you don’t show up is the day you get upset,” Hamblin said.
“But if it all goes to plan and we get the job done, it’d be an absolute privilege to play in a grand final.”
A final call on captain Ned Mortimer’s knee won’t be made until Saturday morning. Hamblin is comfortable that it won’t disrupt his side’s preparation. The only confirmed change for the Saints is Blake Thompson coming in for Dave Karlberg (calf injury).
“Blake will start on the bench and come on and play a back-up ruckman’s role. He’s been playing well for us in the twos and he’ll fit in,” Hamblin said.
The Robertson Oval encounter will be North Wagga’s third final, and their third game against Temora in six weeks, including that emphatic 60 point win in the qualifying final.
In fact, since the start of August, North Wagga have had one trip to The Rock but otherwise have been playing the Bombers or the Kangaroos every other week.
“I still think Matt Wallis is the key to Temora. If it clicks for him, they’re hard to beat and he can cause headaches for any football team,” Hamblin said.
“We’ll put a lot of focus into stopping the supply to him.
“And without Charlie (Vallance) last week, I don’t think Temora would’ve won (against East Wagga-Kooringal). He’s obviously a quality footballer and can find a lot of footy across half-forward so we’ll have to pay him a lot of attention.”