Gunnedah and District AFC Bulldogs head into round three of the Greater Bank AFL North West NSW competition on Saturday, taking on Tamworth Kangaroos at Wolseley Oval.
Due to the Easter long weekend the competition had a round bye, where preceding that the Bulldogs registered their first win of the year, toppling Moree Suns at Moree comfortably by 93 points.
The Kangaroos, though, provide a contrasting challenge, where last time the two sides met it was the Roos who came out on top in last season’s preliminary final by 15 points.
They are the premier of the Tamworth sides, yet the Bulldogs themselves had an even ledger, one loss and win, during the regular home and away fixtures last year.
The Bulldogs are expected to be at full strength for the match, and of particular note is the inclusion of captain Andrew George.
His inclusion back into the side is vital, where his composure under pressure in the middle and in front of goal was lacking for his side last start against Moree.
Another one to miss last match was wingman Luke Ridsdale, where in his debut match against the Nomads a fortnight ago, showed calmness under pressure, using the footy exceptionally by hand and foot.
Whilst excited for the challenge against “seasoned performers” the Kangaroos, Bulldogs coach Greg Piggott believes his side’s gameplan and structures will be sternly tested by his opposition.
“It’s going to be a good test for us skill wise, seeing if we can stick to our game plan for four quarters” Piggott said.
He’s also pinpointed where he thinks the game could well be won or lost.
“The midfield battle is the key at the weekend, not just on the ball but on the defensive side also,” Piggott said.
Ruckman Al Hillard has started the season well, where he and back up Jeremy Howgate have given their midfield first use of the footy consistently.
Jake Spackman has had a great start to the year, where his ability to impact the scoreboard via himself and goal assists to his forwards has been elite thus far.
The former QAFL player is proving a fine pick-up for the Gunnedah engine room.
Regular full forward Mitch Swain is still a week away from returning, but Piggott believes his side has the depth of midfielders to be able to rotate the forward line, with himself the main target coming off an eight-goal haul against the Suns.
“Our midfield has great depth, so hopefully we can utilise some of the smarts of them to create chances in our forward line” Piggott said.
The Roos, grand finalists in 2016, started their season with a 35-point loss to New England Nomads after having the bye in round one.
The Tamworth side, coached by Ben Mitchell are always difficult to beat and has been boosted by Victorian recruit Warwick Gilmour, who booted three goals on debut in Armidale.
Opening bounce is set down for 2pm.