Lauderdale will enter Saturday’s sudden death Semi Final against Launceston at UTAS Stadium full of confidence, according to in-form ruckman Haydn Smith.
Smith’s Bombers were in ominous touch in Saturday’s Elimination Final against Eastern Shore rivals Clarence, controlling the opening half before kicking eight goals to one in a blistering third term to put the contest to bed.
“It is always good to beat Clarence,” Smith said on Monday.
“Clarence and Lauderdale have a lot of history. We knew they were pretty underdone [through injuries] but we had to make sure we didn’t take them lightly. They’re a pretty good team, even with the personnel they were missing.”
Smith’s night was made a touch easier with the late withdrawal of Clarence ruckman Ryan Bailey, who, like Smith, has emerged as one of the state’s very best big men in 2018.
“[I didn’t find out about Bailey’s withdrawl] until about 10 minutes before we ran out. I went through the normal preparation and was ready to go and play against him.
“He is one of the better ruckmen in the state so it was a matter of preparing myself to play the best footy regardless of who I was playing against.
“When I found out he wasn’t playing I thought I might have been in for a good game. Playing on an undersized ruckman gives me a pretty big advantage with my size and experience generally helping our midfielders get first use. My game wasn’t amazing by any standard but I still definitely helped the midfield as much as I could.”
Lauderdale will now face a road trip to UTAS Stadium, a venue that hosted the Bombers’ grand final capitulation nearly 12 months earlier.
Although the Bombers’ 2017 premiership aspirations came to a grinding halt on the final match day of the season, Smith is adamant the experience of playing finals footy and competing on UTAS Stadium will hold his side in good stead for the remainder of the upcoming series.
“The experience of playing finals will help a lot.
“We went inexperienced as to what a grand final is last year, but by making the grand final we overcame some big challenges and it is going to be the same this year.
“We will have to go the long way and the hard way, but I think everyone is up for doing it and the experience of last year will help us prepare for it. It looks like we will have to play another final at UTAS Stadium at some stage in addition to this, so we will just prepare and get ready to play our best footy wherever we need to play,” Smith said.
“We know with full confidence that on our best day we can match it with the best.”
The Bombers will have their hands full against a wounded Launceston outfit that for much of Saturday’s Qualifying Final, looked on track for victory before being overrun in the final term.
“I went into the rooms at about 3/4 time and expected Launceston to run away with the win, but they got overran – they will have a bit of fire in their belly and that is what we will have to expect when we go up there.
“They will be pretty intense and are a slick side if we let them run and do what they like to do, so it will be a competitive, tough game and we won’t get many easy games from here,” Smith said.