Although pundits will tell you it’s only pre-season, the Mudgee Dragons would still like to qualify for the Bathurst knockout this weekend, but they’ll need to win a pair of games on Friday night.
Both the premier division and first grade sides will be required to win matches in order to qualify for the tournament that takes place on Saturday.
“There’s prize money at the end of it but we’ll just take it how it comes,” club president Jared Robinson said.
“It’s another footy game in the pre-season and another chance to blow out the cobwebs and get a few k’s in the legs.
“If we happen to lose on Friday then so be it. Obviously the more games you win, the more match practice you get but it’s definitely not the be all and end all for us.”
Robinson is still on a high after Mudgee’s fourth-placed nines effort which wasn’t perfect but showed a lot about the depth and potential both Dragons sides have in 2018.
“It was really good. We had massive numbers for the second grade blokes,” he said.
“We got a chance to look at a few of the new players and still managed to finish fourth.
“I was really really pleased with the effort.”
Not only was Robinson pleased with the numbers and overall contribution from players in both grades, but highlighted some individual performers that he thinks will help the premier division side in 2018.
“Lee Hicks had a really good weekend,” he said.
“He was the leading try scorer last year and judging off his early season form, he could be in for another big year.
“It’s his third year so he’s starting to be a senior bloke in the side.”
The Bathurst knockout, which has been claimed by the Panthers in the last two seasons, will serve as another chance for the Dragons to ready themselves for the Group 10 campaign which starts in under a month with a round one clash at Blayney.
It’s unusual both Dragons sides are required to qualify for the tournament, while a lot of other teams gained automatic qualification.
Robinson didn’t read into it too much but feels like his club drew the short straw.
“We were a bit unlucky throughout the process. We seem to get the short end of the stick a bit to be honest,” he said.
“We’re the black sheep in Group 10.”
Mudgee will look to get continual improvement from one of its newest acquisitions as Chanse Burgess made the most of his time on the paddock during the nines tournament.
“He only had limited game time but he’s built short to the ground and has a really good bump with good ball skills for a big fella,” he said.
“He’ll only get better with the more game time he has so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do with us this year.”