ALBURY Thunder coach Josh Cale has backed his team to bounce back hard against Southcity for top spot on the Group 9 ladder at Greenfield Park tomorrow.
Cale said the reigning premier didn’t do a lot wrong in last weekend’s narrow loss to Gundagai and he believed the result showed how much the competition had evened up this season.
“People are a bit harsh sometimes,” Cale said.
“We have lost only two games for the year.
“We have had a good year and sometimes people expect too much from a young side.
“We got more out of last week than winning by 50.
“We took a lot of really good lessons out of what we need to work on around the ruck and just having a bit more maturity out on the field.”
Albury faces its biggest challenge at home for a long time from a Southcity line-up eager to snatch top spot on the eve of the finals.
The Bulls overran Gundagai in a thriller a fortnight ago and have been bolstered by the return of forward Nick Skinner.
Albury will go into the clash without injured skipper Lou Goodwin while speedster Chris Seaton is expected to play after looking doubtful this week.
“It will be a good test for us,” Cale said. “The boys are keen.
“They beat us in the first round and we have just come off a loss.
“It will be tough. That’s how it always is against Southcity.
“They are very good out wide and have a steady pack.”
Although Albury has the bye in next week’s final round, Cale desperately wants the first week of the finals off as Thunder has had the past two seasons.
“It’s pretty important,” he said.
“The last two years we have finished first and it’s definitely helped — it would be nice to have a couple of weeks off.
“While it’s not the be-all and end-all, it would be handy.”
Southcity skipper Daniel Fitzhenry admitted the winner would take a psychological advantage into the finals.
“It’s the mental side of it,” he said.
“If we lose to them, we’d probably have to go back down there in a couple of weeks to play them again.
“Winning would give us a bit more confidence.”