Wauchope Thunder commitee member and player Ben Cooper gives us an insight into preparations for the big game on Saturday in this sideline comment
THE Thunder are up against a big challenge playing away against Gloucester tomorrow.
But they have it in them to take the Cockies, who they lost to earlier in the season 19-10.
The boys from the Timber Town are coming off a good win against Old Bar Clams last Saturday, and need to continue the momentum into the back end of the season.
The Thunder's back line clicked for the first time last week, due in large part to the steady hand of John Tavaga at fly-half. His combinations with club captain and inside centre Aaron Robinson were crucial to the cohesion and midfield power throughout the game. Tavaga has family commitments this week in New Zealand and will be unavailable.
There's no doubt the Thunder have the team to do the job. In the backs, Robinson continues to be the spiritual leader and loudest bloke on the park. He can play any position in the back line and demands greatness from those around him.
He will be aided by snippy half-back Dean Hawkins who is playing himself into the form of his season. Last week he constantly hassled the opposition and kept the players focused when they were stuck defending for long periods. He will need to continue to provide clean ball to his outside runners.
Fullback Brendan Cunningham had an immense game against the Clams. His combinations with outside centre Jake Taylor, an exciting firebrand of a player, will prove crucial to the team's success in Gloucester.
The greatest responsibility this week, however, will be on the forwards. Simply put, they did not play with their heads enough around the park last week. The team's set piece is arguably the best in the competition: the scrum has dominated against every side they've encountered, and second-rower Travis Moore continues to secure line out ball while pressuring oppositions when against the throw.
The engine room could be impacted with the loss of barnstorming lock James Stribling. The tallest man in the side is a constant anchor in all set pieces and gets through a tonne of work around the ruck. The courageous terrier of a flanker, Andrew Mackay, is also unavailable after injuring his neck last week.
Fortunately an injury scare for returning lock Aaron Hamilton has passed, and he will be available to run on if required. At the opposite end of the age spectrum, the club's treasurer Cameron Stewart is always reading to pack into the tight five and add some bulk when required.
A strong showing from the side will only be possible if the forwards look to the example of one of the youngest members of the side. Captain Tom Blanch may be the Thunder's most highly rated player: he has deservedly been selected in the Country Cockatoos colts side for three years running.
But it's the constantly improving performances of hooker JJ Hennessy that are the best indication of a side on the rise.
Hennessy's fitness and commitment are on the up, and his dogged defence is first class. But it's the nous he is developing that really excites. He scored a textbook try against the Clams by peeling off a maul, from a lineout ball he'd thrown perfectly to Moore, at precisely the right moment and diving from the blind side into the corner.
The Thunder pigs need to lay the platform by playing hard and low and holding their line.
And everyone on the pitch needs to keep it simple, not rush anything and secure the pill at all costs.