Mitta United co-coach Phil Packer has always been a straight-shooter. He caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE to answer the tough questions about Saturday's grand final.
BG: Do you think the Murray Cray recruiters will be out in force on Saturday watching Jamarl O'Sullivan and hoping they can sign the veteran ruckman for next season?
PP: Age is simply a number and while your body is still healthy, why not keep challenging yourself? Quality big men are like gold and although O'Sullivan may be a yard slower, there is no substitute for footy smarts which the Azzi medallist has in spades.
BG: Thurgoona are a raging favourite to claim its third flag in four seasons. Can you make a case why Barnawartha can cause an upset?
PP: At the start of the season every team strives to be in this position. Barnawartha may not have beaten Thurgoona in three attempts so far but it matter's little once you are in the big dance. The Tigers only have to beat the Bulldogs once and the winner takes all. I will be the first to admit when we played the Tigers in the final round I gave them no hope of making the decider. The double chance is crucial to shaping your side, gaining confidence and building momentum. Only the selection team at Barnawartha will know how healthy its list is. History says plenty of raging favourites have failed on the big stage - so I feel it's game on.
BG: Kade Brown cut Barnawartha to shreds with his run and penetrating kicking off half-back in the second semi-final. Surely the Tigers have to play a defensive forward on Brown?
PP: Having played each other three times previously, there's no doubt both teams will know the opposition's match-winners and game style. There are several Bulldog stars that the Tigers will have plans for. The million dollar question is can the Tigers nullify enough of the opposition's big names and still get the game on their terms.
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BG: Tigers coach Peter Cook is on the record as saying he won't fall into the trap of tagging the Bulldogs' stars. Is that a smart or dumb move?
PP: To win grand finals you need a team that's willing to sacrifice for the cause. There's no doubt that Thurgoona has a star-studded list that should get the job done. What Cookie needs to instill is that if he can have 21 players willing to beat their man for four quarters and not get ahead on themselves, the Tigers will be right in this match. Then it comes down to nailing your chances and applying pressure. There's an old saying in football, there is no pressure like scoreboard pressure.
BG: Tom Anson missed the second semi-final clash with concussion. Cookie rates him highly as a player but what about rival clubs?
PP: Anson is a gun. I know Wodonga was shattered to lose him as he oozes quality. A fit Anson is as good as it gets in the TDFL.
BG: Barnawartha hasn't got close to Thurgoona in three encounters so far. Does Cookie need to reach into his bag of tricks and try something different in a bid to rattle the Bulldogs?
PP: There's no tricks when it comes to winning flags. If the Tigers are to spring an upset, they are going to have to earn it the hard way. Four quarters of relentless pressure, positive run and don't be afraid to roll the dice and take the game on. Most people expect the Tigers to lose, so why not take a risk and not die wondering?
BG: After kicking seven goals in the qualifying final, Cookie has gone goalless in the Tigers' past two finals. Do you think the star sharpshooter could be injured?
PP: My mail is he is carrying a back complaint of some description. But if he names himself, that all goes out the window and he has to perform. Once you cross that white line it's game on and you can be assured the Bulldogs won't be taking any prisoners on Saturday.
BG: Who wins the big dance and why?
PP: Clearly the best team all season has been Thurgoona. How Thurgoona fit so many players under the salary cap is a credit to the Bulldogs' list manager. They are well coached by Dossie (Doswell) and having his trusty sidekick Twitty (Jarrod) run the board is a huge advantage with his excellent footy brain. I'm hoping for a close game but sorry Tiger fans, I can't see the Bulldogs dropping this one.