Deniliquin's Bartlett says defence is key

DENILIQUIN Rams coach Troy Bartlett has defended his club’s brand of football and said it would hold it in good stead for Saturday’s do-or-die final against Echuca United.

After snatching a spot in the top six at the death last week, Bartlett said the Rams had no intention of just making up the numbers at the business end of the season.

He said the fact the club had been playing “elimination finals” for weeks would hopefully prove to be an advantage against the reigning premier on Saturday.

“We think we’re pretty battle-hardened,” Bartlett said.

“We’ve had to be pretty good in some big games and this week is no different.

“I see a few people have had a bit of a go at the way we play and say it’s negative but it’s a finals brand of footy.

“The pressure and defensive side is a big thing for us.”

The Eagles, meanwhile, enter Saturday’s elimination final in a form slump of sorts.

The reigning premier won just three of its final six games leading into the finals.

Echuca United stars Scott Beattie (ankle) and Farran Priest (knee) are both out for the season but Bartlett refused to write the defending champion off.

The Eagles won by 19 points when the sides met in round 14.

“I still think they’re one of the best in the competition,” Bartlett said.

On Sunday, it will be a case of master and apprentice when Barooga takes on Mulwala.

Barooga coach Leigh Ramsdale will come up against former assistant Ben James — who now coaches the Lions.

James worked under Ramsdale at Rennie and the pair won a premiership in 2011.

“I’m looking forward to it,” James said.

“Obviously finals came down to the wire and Nathalia couldn’t have done much more, to be honest.

“I’m just excited for our young blokes because they’ve worked really hard.

“About 10 or so of them will be playing their first senior final.”

Livewire forward Troy Taylor, who hasn’t played for Mulwala since June, is rumoured to be in the mix for a shock return this week.

James kept his cards close to his chest when asked about Taylor.

“We’ll play it by ear but I doubt it,” he said.

“His knee isn’t great.

“We’ll wait until Saturday.”