While the Guildford Owls turn out at a higher level than Dubbo CYMS each week, the Challenge Cup final will offer something the players don’t come across regularly.
The Owls have a number of fierce rivals in the Ron Massey Cup and when those sides meet it often drags in a crowd, but at other times its vastly different.
“There’s some grounds with no one,” coach Paul Fletcher said ahead of Saturday’s state final at Apex Oval.
“We’re going to a ground now we’re everyone is going for the home side. It’s going to be a challenge.”
That challenge is something Fletcher is relishing and he wants his players to do the same.
The 53-year-old former Wests Tigers NSW Intrust Super Premiership coach is an experienced and respected mentor and can remember turning out at Dubbo as an 18-year-old when Balmain’s Jersey Flegg side took on Western Division.
He remembers it being cold, tough and well-supported then and he expects exactly the same at Dubbo’s premier ground on Saturday.
“I don’t think this game would garner the same kind of interest that it’s been getting with it played there,” Fletcher said, comparing the finalists’ venues.
“It’s been excellent. I’m really looking forward to the whole experience and I’ve told the players to embrace it.
“Win, lose or draw it’s good for the game and anything good for the game is good in my opinion.”
Fletcher went as far as to say to his players it was a game he wished he was playing in, something that doesn’t happen all that often now.
That attitude of “win, lose or draw” doesn’t mean Fletcher and his side is taking Saturday’s game lately.
Far from it.
After starting the season brilliantly and sitting at the top of the Ron Massey Cup ladder, some recent injuries and losses has seen the Owls slip to joint-fourth.
Rediscovering top form in the club’s regular competition could easily be the priority but the Owls are bringing as strong a side as they can to Dubbo.
Matt Ryan and Josh Lewis, players with NRL experience, are two of the players sidelined while a knock is also keeping former Super League player Mitchell Achurch out of the game.
Talented Hunt brothers Caleb, Shane and Harmony, will be key for the Owls while former Parramatta Eel Taniela Lasalo will set the tone up front.
“Our strength is our forwards,” Fletcher said.
“We liked to play a middle-based game and I’m a big believer that forwards win games. They do the work and the backs thrive off that so we’ll be relying on them.”
CYMS coach Tim Ryan said his side is “going in blind” in some regards this weekend as he knows very little about the Owls outfit.
The same can’t be said for Fletcher, who has kept a close on the Fishies’ progress in recent weeks and he has been particularly impressed with CYMS fullback Brad Pickering.
“They’ve got some quality,” the coach said, adding he’s been looking at highlights online.
“They’re a fast team and they’re going to be a challenge. I expect the game to be hard and fast.
“I don’t know names but the football looks really good. The fullback looks dangerous and the halves look smart and the forwards are willing.”
Kick-off is 2pm.