The difference between the Bulldogs’ position this time last year and now is pronounced, but Andrew George says his side should not be underestimated ahead of their preliminary final clash against New England at Wolseley Oval on Saturday.
However, a caveat goes with the assertion: the Bulldogs must field a full squad.
At finals time last year, Gunnedah were imbued with a sense of destiny – that their long wait for another premiership was coming to end. They had booked a grand final spot and were awaiting New England, whom they subsequently beat.
Now, however, they are coming off consecutive losses to minor premiers Inverell, failing to field full squads in both matches, and having gone into the first of those matches without playing for three weeks.
Player-coach George is hopeful Gunnedah will have a full side this week, and is also encouraged by the match being at home – it is the Nomads who have to make the 180 kilometre trip.
He said: “If we put a full side on [the field], we have a bench to use, I think it will be a tight game.”
He added: “It’s a completely different feel to last year. We’re coming in [to the match] off the back of a bit of bad form, and Armidale’s probably coming off the back of a bit of good form … Our footy was pretty broken up, so it’s been sort of hard to keep everyone there and interested, and I think it’s probably showed a little bit with our numbers and our results.”
Gunnedah will face a Nomads side who have won six straight games, including a two-point defeat of the Saints at Inverell on August 11 and an 85-point win over the Kangaroos in a knockout final last Saturday.
In a wet major semi-final in Inverell last weekend, Gunnedah lost 8.10 (58) to 4.6 (30).
The winner of Saturday’s clash plays the Saints in the grand final in Inverell on Saturday week.