Shute Shield: No thoughts of using ‘get out of jail free card’ for Batger’s Woodies

Eastwood will live to fight another day even if they suffer defeat in Sunday’s qualifying final against Eastern Suburbs, although the knowledge they’ll have a second chance if they need it isn’t much comfort to head coach Ben Batger.

The highest-ranked loser in the top six is afforded a second chance in the opening week of the Shute Shield finals, and with minor premiers Sydney University ending Manly’s season on Saturday that advantage falls to Eastwood, for now.

Batger doesn’t want to have to take advantage of that “get out of jail free card” though, not considering the Woodies were beaten by Easts in last weekend’s final round of the regular season too.

He’d prefer to just win, and let Northern Suburbs take that second chance. The Shoremen were beaten by Warringah on Saturday, and would become that highest-ranked loser should the Woodies win.

“You’d never want to be going into the last fortnight of finals after two consecutive losses, so we were always focused on the victory alone, one because of the momentum it would bring and two because we don’t want a repeat of last weekend’s performance,” Batger said.

“Last week obviously wasn’t result we wanted and we were disappointed with our performance, but I guess we’re lucky in a way that we get the chance to rectify that against the same opposition straight away.

“We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves, there was a number of times last week where we did that or made mistakes that released the pressure on Easts, so it felt like they had momentum for most of that game and there’s a few areas we can improve on to change that.”

The Beasties have built some serious momentum with three straight victories leading into the finals, but Batger said his side deserves the right to be confident, especially considering Sunday’s rematch is at TG Millner.

“Easts a very good side and I think everyone knew all year if they started to click they would be dangerous but at the same time we finished second for a reason so we’re pretty confident in what we can do as well,” Batger said.

“We’ve learned the lessons from that loss and we’ll move on from it, because we’ve been the second best side all season and we’ll carry that attitude into the finals as well.”

Dean Doumbos returns to Eastwood’s front-row for the qualifying final after missing last week’s loss, he’ll replace Jed Gillespie, who scored three of the side’s four tries in that defeat in his return to the top grade.

Barton Picone moves to centre with Mark Nawaqanitawase coming to replace Pama Fou, while for Eastern Suburbs Ryan McCauley will partner the in-form Tom Staniforth in the second row, with Jack Turley on the side.

Jack Maddocks returns from a corked thigh as well, replacing Dan Donato at fullback, while the dangerous Will Paterson remains on the right wing.

The third and last qualifying final kicks off at 3.10pm on Sunday afternoon, at TG Millner.

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