Excitement builds for Rand-Walbundrie ‘underdogs’

Rand-Walbundrie will be sweating on the fitness of Tiger ace Mark Kimball after he strained a hamstring a fortnight ago.

Rand-Walbundrie will be sweating on the fitness of Tiger ace Mark Kimball after he strained a hamstring a fortnight ago.

RAND-Walbundrie coach Daniel Athanitis believes the Tigers can overcome their lack of finals experience in the second semi-final at Walbundrie on Saturday.

There is plenty of anticipation associated with the Tigers’ first finals appearance since 2009.

The Tigers were predicted to be the league’s big improvers after landing high-profile Eastlake recruits Dean Roulstone, Mark Kimball, Justin Mesman, Ben Maiden, Shaun Allan and Tim Gray and haven’t disappointed, claiming the minor premiership with a 16-2 record.

Henty last missed the finals in 2010 in contrast to Rand- Walbundrie, which has only made it twice — in 2006 and 2009 — since merging in 2005.

The Tigers head into the clash buoyed their inflicted a 35-point defeat of the Swampies in their only clash so far this season, back in round 10.

But Athanitis was quick to put the pressure on Henty.

“There is a real buzz around the club about making finals but we will definitely head into the clash as underdogs,” he said.

“There is little doubt Henty has got the best list and most depth of all the finals contenders.

“There is a lot more pressure on them than us.

“We will just turn up and compete and if we lose everyone expected it anyway — but we don’t.

“We are just approaching the clash as another home game at Walbundrie.”

Henty has a 5-3 record against teams inside the top six, compared to Rand-Walbundrie’s 4-2.

Athanitis dismissed the Tigers’ lack of recent finals experience as a problem.

“Yes, it is a massive step up from the regular season to finals but I don’t think it will be that big a factor,” he said.

“A few of the boys have played in finals, including Mark Kimball and Sam Terlich, and a lot of our kids played in a thirds flag not long ago.”

Both teams boast explosive midfields, with Heath Ohlin, Sam Murray, Simon Hillier and Jamarl O’Sullivan enjoying strong seasons for Henty, while Roulstone, Kimball, Allan and Justin Gordon have been influential for the Tigers.

The Swampies have already ruled out livewire Ryan Hon (knee), while Dean Gorman will also miss for the Tigers with concussion.

Classy ballwinner Kimball is also under an injury cloud after looking to have strained a hamstring in the Tigers’ final match of the season against Jindera.

There is a real buzz around the club about making finals but we will definitely head into the clash as underdogs. There is little doubt Henty has got the best list and most depth of all the finals contenders.

Daniel Athanitis

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