THE Muswellbrook Heelers are hoping dashing winger Ethan Cridland can maintain his tryscoring feats against Southern Lakes in Saturday’s Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union preliminary final at No 2 Showground, Newcastle.
The speedster registered a hat-trick – his third of the season – in the side’s 24-all draw with Cooks Hill 1, a result which lifted the team into this weekend’s penultimate showdown due to a higher placing on the ladder.
Now, a victory on foreign turf will put the Heelers into the 2017 decider alongside Easts 1, which trounced Lakes 31-3.
And, Cridland is keen to play his part again.
“I was happy with my game [last Sunday],” he said.
“But, I received excellent service from the halves.
“Equally pleasing was the overall performance of the boys.
“There were a few unlucky calls, however we kept our cool and maintained our structures.
“We didn’t bite to ‘the niggle’ as we’ve done in the past.
“Plus, the forwards gave the backs the space we needed.
“It was a great team effort, especially when we went into the match without Cameron Young, Jaryd Buckley and lost fullback Patrick Scott-Irving in the opening half.
“The guys produced a big performance to lift in their absence.
“We’re definitely playing for each other.
“We have a strong side and, on our day, we can win the premiership.”
The Heelers’ biggest test comes in the shape of Lakes, who claimed top spot at the end of the home and away rounds.
“They’re a good squad,” Cridland said.
“They have a fit, powerful pack and solid backline.
“We’ll need to control the game in the forwards and ruck – and match Lakes up front.
“If we can replicate what we did [on Sunday] and take it up a level, I think we’ll be okay.
“It’s important we work on our discipline, too, as we know the referees won’t put up with anything.
“You don’t want that playing us out of the game.
“So, we can’t afford to give away cheap penalties or easy metres.
“I’m fairly confident we can win on Saturday.”