Queanbeyan Kangaroos (3) v Woden Valley Rams (6) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Freebody Oval
After 14 years in the blue and gold of Woden Valley, punctuated by a host of fond memories and lifelong friendships, Rams club captain Josh Burns will hang up the boots after Saturday’s match against the Queanbeyan Kangaroos at Freebody Oval.
Burns has battled with the decision over the last couple of years but finally came to the verdict in 2015 after witnessing the emergence of the promising batch of youngsters coming through the grades at the club.
“It was a hard decision to make and I wrestled with it for a couple of years but the club is in a good spot in all grades with a lot of talented juniors coming through. That made the decision easier,” Burns said.
“Every year has had its highlights but the main thing that I will miss is going into battle with the boys on a weekend and the social interaction at training and after games.
“The club has had a really good year and Ash Barnes as Coach has really brought us together and we’ve had really good results throughout the grades. The experience of this year will help the guys next year.”
Whilst Burns is rue to make the day all about him, there is no doubt that sending the club stalwart out a winner will be the overriding motivation for the Rams on Saturday.
“It’s not just a game for me, and I’ve told that to the boys, but we want to finish our year off with a bit of respect,” Burns said. “We missed our goal of playing in the semi-finals but it will be a waste on Saturday if we don’t turn up because I think we’ve earned a lot of respect this year.”
With a spot in the top two up for grabs, which will lead to a second chance in the semi-finals, Queanbeyan has plenty of motivation against an emotionally charged Rams outfit.
“A finish in the top two is of massive importance to us with the second chance extremely valuable in the finals series. That’s a massive focus for us this weekend,” said centre Glen Baker.
“Josh has been a great servant to the Rams over a number of years so they will want to send Josh out on a high note.”
Another factor of motivation for the Roos is to turn around their form after last week’s disappointing loss to Goulburn.
“It was a disappointing loss last weekend,” Baker said. “We were travelling well over the last seven weeks but I guess we sort of became a bit complacent and figured that it would be enough to show up on the day and the ball would bounce our way and we’d get a few calls and that would be enough to win it. Clearly you can’t afford to do that in this competition.
“Clearly that doesn’t work in this competition with so many strong teams. Hopefully it is a bit of a wakeup call and it’s probably a good thing that it happened now rather than in the semi-finals.”
Tuggeranong Bushrangers (7) v West Belconnen Warriors (4) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Greenway
West Belconnen will be striving for their sixth win in a row when they take on Tuggeranong in what will be the Bushrangers’ last match for 2015.
After an inconsistent start to the year, the Warriors have the other premiership contenders looking over their shoulder due to their run of form, which has included defeats over both of last year’s Grand Finalists.
Pivotal in West Belconnen’s resurgence has been the form of electric halfback Howie Brown and evasive fullback Ryan McQueen.
On the back of a dominant performance from his forwards, Warriors halfback Howie Brown cut Woden’s defence to shreds last week with his unpredictability and footwork scoring a slashing individual try in the first half and also nailing six goals.
“He’s lightning, we talked about his feet and the unpredictability he’s got,” Rams Captain Josh Burns said of the 20 year old. “Once their big bodies get second-phase play happening, he’s really dangerous. He’s an X-factor for them.”
“He [Brown] is very much a Shaun Johnson type,” Warriors Coach Justin Giteau added. “He was slow to come over [from New Zealand] and we were always going to be better at the back end of the year with him in the team. We’re playing physical footy now and still have a bit of improvement left in us.”
Meanwhile McQueen has been in rare try-scoring form, having notched nine tries in his last four games.
Unable to make the semi-finals, seventh placed Tuggeranong will be looking to finish the season on a high to build towards a more improved 2016 season.
West Belconnen beat Tuggeranong 30-16 in Round 7.
Belconnen United Scholars (8) v Queanbeyan Blues (1) on Saturday at 3:00pm at O’Connor
After snapping a three game losing streak last week by comprehensively thrashing Tuggeranong by 44 points at home, the Queanbeyan Blues will be looking to build on this form leading into the first match of the finals.
After a nine match winning streak to start the year, the Blues appeared to have dropped the ball over the last month with Coach Simon Woolford admitting that his side was in a “rut” following their three consecutive losses.
Woolford will be hoping that the win over the Bushrangers has rectified their situation.
Two points clear of Goulburn atop of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup ladder and with the best for-and-against record in the competition, the Blues are certain to finish the year as Minor Premiers, just as they did last year despite an upset loss to the Scholars.
Whilst Woolford will be happy to finish the regular season off as Minor Premiers, he will be rue to lead into the semi-finals with a loss to an opponent at the opposite end of the table.
It has been a season to forget for the Scholars with just one win from 13 games and they will be looking to finish the year off on a positive note with a competitive performance against one of the premiership favourites.
It will be a tough task however, with Blues premiership winning halfback Ben Nicoll starting to find his feet again and the fact that the defending premiers thumped Belconnen United 56-10 back in Round 7.
Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (2) v Gungahlin Bulls (5) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Goulburn Workers Arena
With their spot at second place on the ladder under threat from the Queanbeyan Kangaroos, Goulburn will have an extra incentive on the cards when they take on Gungahlin at home this Saturday afternoon, given the advantages derived from a finish in the top two.
As mentioned earlier, a finish in the top two provides the top two teams with an extra chance in the semi-finals, something which is of course of vital importance.
Secondly, the Bulldogs will be looking to build some momentum into the semi-finals after an up-and-down month of form.
Goulburn ended a two match losing streak last week with a comprehensive 30-4 win over the Roos at home.
Assisting Goulburn’s fortunes were the returns of star fullback Michael Bani from a dislocated shoulder and the hard-working Blake Hewitt. Injuries had played a part in the Bulldogs’ inconsistency over the last month however there can be no more excuses from now on.
“We’ve had a horror run with injuries and we’re slowly getting blokes back week by week,” Bulldogs Captain-Coach Mick Picker said.
“We’ve had to hang in there but we’ve got ourselves in a better position by winning against the Roos. I don’t think it [back-to-back losses] is the worst thing in the world to happen. Sometimes, if you’re winning every week you get complacent.”
Gungahlin is situated just just two points below the Warriors on the ladder in fifth place, entailing that Gungahlin will need West Belconnen to succumb to defeat and for them to register a victory of over 76 points in the final regular season match of 2015.
Whilst this is highly unlikely given that Gungahlin will be playing second placed Goulburn, stranger things have happened in the great game of Rugby League…
Goulburn beat Gungahlin 36-14 in Round 7.