If ever there was a year that a local team would take out the Border Knock-Out title, this is it. Plenty of familiar names make up a number of the sides with some new teams added to the mix this year too.
The Goondiwindi Boars will of course field their men along with nine other teams including the three new Border Connections, Woodbridge Memorial and Rod's Rebels teams. They'll be joined by the Toomelah Tigers, Goomeroi Warriors, Dallas Green Memorial (Moree), George Mills Memorial, Coona Connection (Gold Coast, Coonabarabran and Narrabri) and North Coast Cowboys/Bourke Warriors.
The Boars have been training hard with newcomer Travis Waddell. "The team will look a bit different with locals joining a lot of the other sides too but the boys are going really well and have been enjoying training," Jamie Russ said. "I think Travis is a good fit and he knows his stuff," Robby Hanna said. Unfortunately Waddell won't be here for Saturday's games but will be ready for the season start. Other faces to watch will be the Clement boys; Carl, Brenton and Connor along with Micky Hazard and Luke Morris for the Boars, and Davey Armstrong and Dave McGrady on the other teams. "I think Toomelah and Woodbridge will be strong," Hanna said, "but there's a few unknowns too." "The boys have been building well though considering we had last year off with Covid. It's shaping up to be a good season," he said.
While there will be some serious footy, the day has a different meaning for many involved, with a number of memorial sides nominated. "Once you pull on that memorial jumper, it's just different," Matt Cleal said. "It can be pretty emotional but we all just want to go out there and show our respect," he said. The Rebels is a new team honouring the late Adam Rodilossi. "He loved his footy and we wanted to do something to remember what a great bloke he was and help give the family some comfort," he said. "We just want to thank the family for all their support and to all the sponsors who have jumped on board to make it happen too." 'Rod' is well recognised amongst the league community having played for Gundy, Warialda, Gwydir and Moree, having grown up in Yetman. Half the team will be some of his close mates while there will be a few "handy" players from other towns completing the side. "Knock-out footy is more intense," Cleal said. "You can't just go and have a bad game or it's all over. It's high tempo. You've just got to try and turn the big fellas around and get the ball as much as you can. We've just got to back our abilities and hope we all gel on the day," he said.
Alec Wightman said there'll be some friendly rivalry but the Warriors will be competitive. "The team's made up of all former local fellas from Bogga, Toomelah and Gundy so there's a bit of expectation there," he said. They'll be led around by old Boar Harold Brown but Wightman said young Tyrell Munro was one to watch too. The men will have the advantage of having played together at other knock-outs but this will be their first run at the Gundy comp. "It's a good opportunity to nurture the young fellas," he said, "But I think we'll be competitive." Wightman agreed the Tigers and Woodbridge sides were the ones to watch.
"You'll see some very competitive football on Saturday," Russ said. "It'll be typical knock-out footy; very entertaining." "It's also our biggest fundraising day," Hanna added, "so we're pretty excited. It'll be a good day."
Games will start at 9am with the finals held about 7.30pm. Games will consist of 20-minute halves.
The draw will take place at the QL at 7pm on Friday night and then published on the Boars' Facebook page.
There is a Covid plan in place, the reason for only having 10 teams this year, and spectators are asked to download the app so they can sign-in upon entry. But don't worry, it will still be a great community day to enjoy the footy. "There's plenty of room for social distancing," Russ joked.