KEY players sidelined, five hours on a bus and a strong Bendigo Football League squad ready to fire on its home turf.
When you put it that way Gippsland has every right to feel like the underdog for Saturday’s Worksafe Country Championships clash with Bendigo at the QEO.
Gippsland coach Harmit Singh disagrees.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had some players pull out through injury, but the guys who have made the final 23 are all deserving of their opportunity and they’re excited about the opportunity,’’ Singh said.
“We’re together for a lot of today which is a great chance to spend time together and go through some things for tomorrow.
“I see it pretty simply that we’ve got 23 committed players that want to come up and do their best.
“We do have to travel, but we’ll be in Bendigo from 4pm today, so there’s no issues about us not being at our best for Saturday’s game.”
Much has been made of Gippsland’s tall squad this week.
With rain about in Bendigo on Friday and the slight chance of more rain on Saturday, you could mount an argument for leaving one or two talls out in place of some extra midfielders.
Singh said his squad would adapt no matter what conditions are thrown up.
“Our spine is tall and our third talls are around the 188-190cm mark, but the rest of the group is relatively small,’’ Singh said.
“With the 23 we’ve picked we have no issues if it’s wet.”
The biggest threat to Gippsland appears to be Bendigo’s powerful forward line.
Former St Kilda star Stephen Milne and ex-North Melbourne forward Corey Jones are sure to give the Gippsland defence plenty of headaches.
Singh said it would be up to Gippsland’s midfielders to ensure the likes of Milne and Jones don’t have a strong influence on the game.
“It comes down to supply. If we let Bendigo have clean entries inside 50 and we leave him (Milne) isolated, then it’s going to be tough,’’ Singh said.
“There’s been no players in Bendigo who have been able to stop Milne so far this year, so it will be a good challenge for whoever plays on him.”
VCFL representative Luke Collins, Aaron Ware, James Blaser and VFL development league best and fairest winner Aiden Lindsay give Gippsland a formidable starting midfield group.
“We think we’ve got a midfield group that is very combative and ready to do their best,’’ Singh said.
“The battle at the stoppages is going to be critical because both sides have potent forward lines.
“The ability to get repeat entries and score from them, particularly if it’s wet, will be vital to the outcome of the game.”
This is Gippsland’s third trip to Bendigo in five years - a 23-point loss in 2010 and a nine-point loss in 2012.
Singh said Gippsland footy had done everything in its power to make sure it’s third time lucky.
“We’ve put in as much time as we could to be ready for this game,’’ Singh said.
“This game is very important for Gippsland footy.
“For all the clubs that are represented and the people involved in footy in Gippsland it would be great to win because we haven’t been able to get inside that top six of the rankings.
“We’ll be giving everything we can.”