Minor premiers of the AFL Canberra Fourth Grade Men’s competition, Murrumbateman Eagles are gearing up for a ‘home’ preliminary this weekend against the Woden Blues.

The clash will occur at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval (GEO) this Saturday, 13 August, with the first bounce at 12pm, with the game being moved away from the Eagles traditional home of Murrumbateman Park due to inadequate surface conditions.

The sixth-placed Woden Blues qualified for the preliminary final after defeating the third-placed ADFA Rams last weekend in the elimination final by a solitary point at RMC Oval, 11.9.75 to 11.8.74.

Murrumbateman Eagles Club President Andy Ingold expects the preliminary final to be a tough contest.

“Woden are a good club and a tough team. They are a bigger-bodied side as well. Hopefully, we’ll just take it as another week and do the best that we can do,” he said.

“If we go in with coach Brent Fraser’s plan and play our footy, it should be a good game.”

“I didn’t get to watch Woden’s game against ADFA, but anything can happen in finals footy, it’s just a different game. I’m maybe a little bit surprised by the result, ADFA have been there the whole year, but to Woden’s credit, they’ve obviously planned the right footy at the right time and came away with that one-point win.

“Whether the tight contest plays in our favour, I’m not sure. If it was a physical contest their bodies might be a bit sore. We’ve obviously had the advantage of having a week off. Let’s hope this rain stays away and the boys can get onto the paddock and get some good training runs in.”

Ingold said he is disappointed that the preliminary final against Woden won’t be played at Murrumbateman Park despite earning the right to a home final.

“That was really disappointing that we couldn’t have the final in Murrumbateman. It shows that we are fair dinkum about footy in our short history. To finish on top and not be rewarded for that is a bit disappointing,” Ingold said.

“However, player welfare is number one. Due to the ground’s surface, you don’t want any rolled ankles going into the grand final. Obviously, the facilities and lack of showers also played a part.

“Going to Gungahlin, it is a bigger ground. Our players don’t mind a bigger ground. A lot of our home games this year have been played at Kingston Oval and that’s a bigger ground.

“We certainly hope that the crowd can still get there and that the Murrumbateman community can make that bit of travel into Gungahlin and get behind the guys.”

Ingold says that the team is looking to go into the preliminary final with a full-strength squad.

“The coaching staff hasn’t alerted me to anyone that is unavailable, so they’ll be able to pick from the whole squad which is a positive spot to be in,” Ingold continued.

“It is disappointing that some guys will miss out, but that’s footy. I’m sure they’ll come and help out in any way they can.

“The coaches are well aware that the job is not done yet. Fraser has been wonderful in the last two years bringing the group together and the culture that we’re after both on and off the field.

“We’re minor premiers but everyone knows the job’s not finished. They’ve been talking about another week another opportunity all year and that’s what they’re doing. Nothing’s changing, they’re just going into it as another game. They know how important it is.”

Murrumbateman has played Woden twice this year, collecting wins on both occasions. They defeated the Blues 12.12.84 to 5.5.35 in round one of the season and 13.5.83 to 4.6.30 just last month in round 13.

“We always go in confident to any game of footy, but we can’t take anyone lightly. The competition has been very tight all year. Up until the last round, anyone from the top eight could’ve gone into the top six.”

“We have come away winners against them already this year, but finals footy is totally different so the boys will prepare well for it hopefully.”

Murrumbateman and the Yass Roos finished first and second on the ladder this season, with a Battle of the Barton clash set up for the grand final should both Yass Valley sides win.

“It’d be great for our community if both sides went through. It would be a cracker. It was three points and seven points between us in the two clashes already this year. But we’ve both got to get there first.”

Tim Warren