Battle royale for title
CITY pride will be on the line and it will be a clash of the titans when minor premiers Bundaberg Turtles do battle with reigning premiers Fraser Coast Mariners in the All-Safe Spring Cup grand final at ATW Sports Complex tonight.
The Turtles club was reformed this season after a nine-year absence and its team has swept all before it, winning all of its 11 matches so far, mostly by big margins.
Mariners, who will carry the hopes of Hervey Bay, did not play in the local rounds and their only loss in five games was a 20-17 defeat at the hands of Turtles on October 29, when they opted not to take kicks despite being awarded three penalties close to the line in the dying minutes.
Turtles progressed on a West Barbarians forfeit in last week's semi-finals, while Mariners torched Isis Crushers 41-8.
Turtles' player/coach Rob Darney is not worried about missing a match last week. In fact, he believes it could be advantageous.
“We played 20 minutes of 10-a-side and it was pretty much full-on contact. It was quite anaerobic, so it was a bit of fitness, and we had a team training session afterwards, so it was a good result considering the forfeit,” he said.
“And we got away with no injuries, which was a good thing.”
The crafty coach and fierce competitor is yet to finalise his team, with 24 players eligible after the loss of Jarrod Tanner with a foot injury and Josh Tanner through suspension.
Darney said they also had a good training session on Wednesday night and they ironed out a few little issues and fine-tuned a few moves.
He is confident despite labelling Mariners the favourites.
“They won the competition last year and they are a very good, structured team and they have been consistent week-in week-out. We are the only team that has really stopped them defensively and I think that will be a telling factor in this game on Friday night. I accept underdog status but revel in it,” he said.
Darney said it was essential the Turtles shut down Mariners' backs, because that was where they were most dangerous. The backs had either scored or been heavily involved in their 26 tries in their four preliminary matches, compared to Turtles' 19.
“Their outside centre is a very good runner of the ball, their fullback Chris Dougan is very elusive and their halfback (Adam Ebert) got a hat-trick last week. You have got to shut him down.
“They are a very young, elusive team and obviously well rounded. It will be a very good game.”