Former Albury Thunder teammates to lock horns in Group 9 crunch match

Ben Jeffery and Josh Cale formed a formidable combination at Albury Thunder. They will be rivals when Thunder take on Kangaroos on Sunday.
Ben Jeffery and Josh Cale formed a formidable combination at Albury Thunder. They will be rivals when Thunder take on Kangaroos on Sunday.

JOSH Cale and Ben Jeffery's near weekly football chats have been put on hold.

At least until after Sunday.

The Albury Thunder and Kangaroos coaches will go head-to-head in a do-or-die final round match at Wagga with the winner almost guaranteed a spot in the Group 9 finals.

Cale admitted it was a strange feeling coming up against the three-time Thunder premiership star for the first time.

"We still keep in touch and talk footy a fair bit," Cale said.

"Even at the start of the year when Kangaroos played down here and I was running the bench for Tuki (Jackson), it was hard looking at him in a different jumper.

"We had a lot of good times together when he was playing down here.

"Benny's going to be keen to get Kangaroos into the semis after some lean years and, in saying that, we'ere also keen to scrap in and give ourselves an opportunity in the finals."

Jeffery, who coached Thunder for the past two seasons and dominated in their 2012, 2013 and 2014 premierships, made a successful 32-18 raid on Greenfield Park in round seven with Cale still rating the former NRL player as one of the competition’s elite performers.

"When he played down here earlier in the year, I thought he was really controlled and used his experience well," he said.

"I think the change has been good for him.

"He's still a game-breaker and leader and we will have to be on our game."

The winner of the Kangaroos and Albury Thunder clash will play in the elimination final providing the script goes to plan and ladder leader Southcity topple Wagga Brothers.

Jeffery injured his calf in last weekend's win over Brothers but is rated a near-certainty to play.

He and teammate Tristan Dickson shape as the biggest worry to Thunder.

“They are really good players,” Cale said.

“I thought we had some encouraging signs against Young and need to come with the same sort of commitment.”

Kangaroos are chasing their first finals appearance in seven years while Thunder made the elimination final last season under Jeffery.

While Daniel Jacobs looks set to return from injury for the clash, fullback Lachie Hampton is in doubt after leaving the field early in last weekend’s narrow loss to Young.

Billy Ryder has been in fine form since breaking into first grade ranks while Andrew Smith and Levi Freeman will also be pivotal for Thunder.

The ladder is: 

South City 31, Young 29, Gundagai 28, Tumut 25, Kangaroos 18, Brothers 17, Albury Thunder 16, Temora 16, Junee Diesels 12, Tumbarumba 9, Cootamundra 7.