The COOTAMUNDRA STRIKERS men’s first grade and reserve grade side will both play what is arguably, the biggest game of the season thus far.

After five rounds, both sides are still yet to pick up their first three points for the season and this weekend, this is the case for their opponents too.

The men’s first grade side will travel to Bull Paddock today to take on rivals Tumut Eagles, who will field their strongest side yet in 2021 in search of their first win.

This includes Wagga City Wanderers and 2020 Best and Fairest, Ethan Contessa who makes his return.

The Strikers however, will be at a loss with the absence of skipper and star defender Nick Ashe who is unavailable due to work commitments.

But the Coota side will be bolstered by the late inclusion of Strikers 300-game legend and multiple premiership winner Mick Simons in-between the sticks, as regular Blake Thompson is required to slot in goals for reserve grade.

At the back, the experienced Tom Phillips will once again step up this season to replace Ashe, and sit alongside 2020 Best and Fairest and Players Player Mark Rogers, as well as young Corey Doohan on the left and the capable Steve Armstrong on the right.

The towering figure Cathal Breslin will play his second game of the season in midfield after making a huge impact in his return last Sunday, he will play alongside the experienced Brenton Forsyth with pacy Chris Tan sitting in-front of both of them as the 10.

No changes up-front with 15-year-old Lachlan McDermott and last week’s Players’ Player Jack Murphy on the wings, as well as the vocal Koby Godbier at the top.

Although a number of injuries and lack of player numbers have exhausted the Strikers this season, the morale both on-and-off the field has never been higher.

Coming off a 19-0 defeat for the first grade side last Sunday and a forfeit for reserve grade, Strikers Head Coach Mick Godbier said the mentality of his side is what excites him and pleases him as a coach.

“I’ve always said this but its not about the results for me,” he said at training on Thursday night,

“The key thing I am taking away is that our football is progressing and we are working really hard to apply what we have been training on and transferring onto the pitch on Sunday.

“Even after each goal we conceded last week, which was tough to swallow, it was really positive for me as a coach to see you boys still giving your 110 per cent and wanting to win each ball.

“You can’t coach passion.”

Strikers first grade side vs. Tumut. Graphic: Christopher Tan.

The mens reserve grade side will also be away this weekend at Burns Park, taking on Junee who are sitting on five losses in five.

The Strikers reserve grade side will be strengthened by the return of Taiyo Rees, Peter Hoang and Reece Badcock.

Massive games will be needed from Jaidyn Campbell and Matthew Bugden at the back too, in support of keeper Blake Thompson, as the Strikers have a tendency this season to concede a number of goals early on in the game.

Being able to dictate the game, play out from the back, and unlock the wings for the Strikers today will be key for the Coota side to earn their first points of the 2021 season.

In midfield, the boys will need to be patient and play the ball to the feet in order for the side to have any chance of counter-attacking and even getting a few shots on target.

Keeping a strong shape too within midfielders Whelan, Lanksey and Liam Thompson will be key to stopping Junee from going forward.

For first grade, only Tumut and Cootamundra are winless after Round 5, with Tumut on three losses and two draws and a -14 goal difference.

Cootamundra are sitting on four losses and a draw and a -33 goal difference.

For reserve grade, Junee, Tolland and Cootamundra are all on five losses and -24, -26, -23 goal differences, respectively.

Strikers reserve grade side vs. Junee. Graphic: Christopher Tan.

WOMENS

The ladies side will have a tough task in hand this weekend with a grand-final rematch at home against Hanwood FC.

Coota have this season struggled with match-day numbers and consistency in both halves and are currently sitting at the bottom of the table with four losses and one draw.

This weekend however, features a strong squad with five subs on the bench.

Hanwood FC are currently second on the ladder with three wins, one lost and one draw, and Airlee Savage has bagged six goals in five games so far this season.

The fixture comes handy this weekend with the girls still in high spirits after a number of positive performances on the park in the past few weekends.

Training this week was also good for the girls and they focused on fitness and playing the ball out from the defense and into the midfield.

One of the strengths for the girls this season is their backline and midfielders driving the ball forward and creating a number of threatening goal scoring opportunities.

Strikers women’s midfielder Rebecca Philpott said the fixture will be tough and that the girls will rather focus on achieving a clean sheet today, than putting a few in the back of the net.

“I’d say we will play a bit more defensive today, although we will definitely be pushing forward and putting pressure on their backline,” she said.

“It will be a very fast and physical game and the girls are ready for the challenge.”

16-year-old Matilda Coggan is said to be a late inclusion in the squad, she impressed last weekend in her senior debut playing 20 minutes in each half at left midfield.

Matilda has played in the centre-back role for juniors and is a keen and very capable goalkeeper too.

If she has a good game, winger Alana Simons will be a real threat for the Strikers, often causing trouble in the box for her opposition numbers.

The solid right-back Claire Roddy has been moved to left-wing today, in hope to win plenty of the aerial challenges in midfield.

A new look front is also included for the Strikers this weekend, with Steph Doohan and Steph Smith as forwards.

Strikers ladies first grade side vs. Hanwood FC. Graphic: Christopher Tan.

Kick-off times

Sunday 11.00am: Strikers men’s reserve grade v Junee (Burns Park / Junee)

Sunday 11.05am: Strikers ladies first grade v Hanwood FC (O’Connor Park / Coota)

Sunday 3.20pm: Strikers men’s first grade v Tumut (Bull Paddock / Tumut)

Preview by: Christopher Tan