GISBORNE coach Luke Saunders is confident his young players won’t be overawed by the pressure of a Bendigo Football League final tonight.
Gisborne will take on Golden Square in the second semi-final at the Queen Elizabeth Oval, with a berth in the grand final the prize for the winner.
Tonight’s Gisborne side will include five players who were part of last year’s under-18s list – Hamish Govan, Lachie Crosbie, Tim Walsh, Andre Headberry and Eamon McKenna – while the Bulldogs have also brought in 19-year-old Ben Watt.
That’s just over a quarter of tonight’s team that is aged 19 or under
“It’s very exciting to have a really young and enthusiastic team in tomorrow night,” Gisborne coach Luke Saunders said yesterday.
“It’s always a positive to have a young team, and we’ve got five from last year’s under-18s who are playing.”
Asked if he had any concerns that the big occasion could get the better of his young players, Saunders doesn’t believe it will be an issue tonight against the three-time defending premiers in Golden Square.
“To me, age is just a myth, and if you prepare the guys to the best of their ability, age shouldn’t be any issue,” Saunders said.
While Gisborne has six teenagers, they still have a sprinkling of players who were part of the club’s golden era of the 2000s when it dominated.
Anthony Belcher (two), Cameron Medica (two), Ollie Messaoudi (three), Darren Farrugia (three) and Rod Sharp (four) have played in 14 BFL flags between them, while Sharp was also part of two Riddell District league premierships before Gisborne joined Bendigo in 2000.
Add in the middle-aged group of players headlined by captain Casey Summerfield, Michelsen Medal contenders Scott Walsh and Tom Waters, Shaun Comerford and wingman Daniel Weaver and Saunders believes his side has the right balance.
“We’ve got some really good kids coming through, those handful of blokes over 30 with experience, which helps, and then a few in that mid-20s bracket, so we think we’ve got a pretty good mix there at the moment,” Saunders said.
“It’s a very well balanced team.”
Gisborne and Golden Square played two contrasting games during the home and away season.
Their first meeting was a 67-point win to Gisborne in round eight, before they played out a 94-all draw at Golden Square three weeks ago after Square had led by 52 points early in the second quarter.
Despite not having lost to Golden Square this year, Saunders has the utmost respect for his Bulldog rivals ahead of what will be the seventh meeting in a final between the two clubs over the past decade.
“We’re expecting a really hard game, like we do every time we play Golden Square,” Saunders said.
“They might have lost a few players from last year, but we’re not buying into that.
“It’s more the culture and the standing of Golden Square as a club that we look at.
“There’s a lot of good players they’ll have out there tomorrow night, and no doubt, the success of the past three years will give them confidence.
“But I couldn’t be happier with our preparation for the game. It’s just about sticking to our process and if we do that, not to say it’s going to be easy, but we believe the result can go our way.”