Whalers fit and firing for ‘revenge’ final

Otago Whalers loose forward Cameron Brown at training at Bayfield Park on Thursday night. PHOTO:...
Otago Whalers loose forward Cameron Brown at training at Bayfield Park on Thursday night. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The Otago Whalers will appreciate their increased focus on recovery today.

To reach today’s national rugby league championship final, the side had to play four games over two days in Timaru last weekend.

It would not be a surprise if the players’ bodies were feeling a little sore for today’s match against Northland in Auckland.

However, Otago is in pretty good shape.

It was the only one of the four South Island teams to emerge with no injuries and coach Dave Reedy said there had been a "spring in everyone’s step" at training this week.

"‘We put a bit of extra effort this year into our recovery at the end of each games and at the end of each day.

"It was probably the first time we’ve done that much recovery.

"It was a tournament, so that was probably the difference in the end.

"The other teams had players breaking down and getting injured."

It was a new-look team this year, having picked up several rugby union players because of the change in seasons caused by Covid-19.

Thirteen of the squad of 22 was new this year.

Reedy said that had brought a new enthusiasm to the group.

It also meant the result of the team’s last meeting with Northland — a 26-26 draw which denied it a challenge for promotion to the Premiership division — would not linger.

"I think we have three or four left over from the last time we played Northland when we had the draw here two years ago.

"So they want a bit of revenge for the draw.

"But the other ones have no idea so they’ll just be out there playing which I think is good for us. They don’t have that extra kind of baggage."

Defence would be a big focus for the Whalers.

Reedy said they were capable of scoring plenty of points, and their attack was their biggest weapon.

However, they could get loose defensively when they got tired.

Keeping that tight would be key, as would matching the physicality of the Northland side.

The Whalers are coming off a strong weekend in Timaru, having beaten Aoraki 38-6 in the final to book a spot in the match.

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