Flying under the radar

COROWA-RUTHERGLEN veteran Kade Kuschert says NSW-ACT can slip under the radar and win the national titles at Wagga.

The Blues were the surprise packets on the opening day of the Australian Country Championships yesterday and sit third on the six-team ladder after two wins and a loss.

Albury tough nut Josh Maher finished the day as the carnival’s leading goalkicker with 11, while Tigers teammate and skipper Joel Mackie, Kuschert and Lavington duo Luke Garland and Brant Dickson were impressive for the host state.

Kuschert said NSW-ACT, which faces unbeaten Victoria 1 at Maher Oval at 1pm today in a possible grand final preview, could match it with anyone.

“A lot of us came here expecting to win it,” Kuschert said.

“There is plenty of talent in the squad.

“It’s about preparing well and getting recovery and our heads right.

“You just can’t afford not to prepare right.”

Defending champion Victoria 1 again shapes as the team to beat after brushing aside South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

The Big V was ruthless against Queensland in its third and final game of the day, booting 7.7 (49) to nil, with Wang­aratta Rovers defender Tyson Hartwig and Lavington star Matt Pendergast outstanding.

Kuschert, 28, knows the Blues can’t afford any repeat performances like their nine-point loss to Victoria 2 at McPherson Oval — straight after a first-up 33-point win against Queensland.

NSW-ACT then bounced back with a 19-point win against South Australia at Maher Oval to put it above South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland on the ladder.

“It probably would have been better to have played Vic and then Queensland second,” Kuschert said.

“Our legs were gone a little bit in the second half.

“They were pretty well drilled.

“Any Vic country side is going to be pretty strong — even the second side is pretty handy.

“We were a bit slow early.

“I don’t know if the first game hindered us a bit, but we weren’t too bad.”

Kuschert said he was relishing his first state jumper.

“I’ve made the squad for four years, but I’ve niggling injuries that have kept me out,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to it because someone at my age, I would have thought it was past me.

“I’m really enjoying it.”

Kuschert was outstanding as a key tall in defence for NSW-ACT and continually set up the spread into attack from across the back half.

His long kicking was a feature, particularly against Victoria 2.

The round-robin pool matches were held over 20-minute halves.

The carnival continues today. There’s a rest day tomorrow and it finishes on Sunday.

NSW-ACT's Joel Mackie takes a mark yesterday.

NSW-ACT's Joel Mackie takes a mark yesterday.