THE Strathfieldsaye Storm are more than happy to take the underdog tag into tomorrow’s first semi-final against Sandhurst at the QEO.
Written off as a genuine flag contender after a mid-season form slump, the Storm have rediscovered their mojo in recent weeks.
Last week’s elimination final win over South Bendigo was impressive and Storm coach Darryl Wilson expects his side to lift a notch tomorrow.
“It’s been a low-key week which is the way we want do it,’’ he said.
“We didn’t change our routine. We’ve had a light week on the track in the hope that the boys will be nice and fresh for Sunday.
“We’re looking forward to having a crack at it. No-one really expects us to win, but that’s okay.
“We’ve beaten Sandhurst once and they beat us the second time. It’s a 50-50 game. We’re confident enough that if we play to our ability that we will be right in the game.”
It’s the defensive end of the ground and the ruck where Wilson expects his side to hold the edge.
The last time these two sides met the Storm led by 41 points before losing by 33 points.
“Defensively is where we let ourselves down last time we played them,’’ Wilson said.
“(Sandhurst’s) Mitch Dole kicked six goals that game, including four in the third quarter... we can’t allow that sort of thing to happen again.
“We’ve got our back six back together now and I thought they were great against South Bendigo last week.
“We have a lot of respect for Sandhurst’s forwards. Ricky Symes has kicked 60-odd goals and Jake Ward takes a good mark.
“If we can hold up well down back it will go a long way to winning the game.”
Matt Thornton is usually the third key forward for Sandhurst, but he will be the Dragons’ number one ruckman tomorrow.
Thornton was the best big man on the ground in Sandhurst’s loss to Golden Square last week.
Wilson is keen to see how Thornton handles the Storm’s two-pronged ruck attack of Michael Pilcher and Kris Lea.
“We’ve got two good ruckmen and we’ll be trying to work him (Thornton) over.
“I can’t see how he’ll get through a full game by himself, but we’ll see how it works out.
The battle of the midfield groups will be crucial to the outcome of the game.
Wilson said Blair Holmes and Lee Coghlan shape as the game breakers for Sandhurst.
“We’ll probably let our midfielders go early in the game and see what happens.
“A couple of our midfielders were down a bit last week, so hopefully they’ll be better this week.
“Obviously Holmes and Coghlan get Sandhurst going, so we’ll keep a close eye on them.
“Kellan Smith is the obvious choice to go to Holmes or Coghlan and we’ve got Jono Gawthrop to play a role as well if needed.”