BY: Alex Fair
PHOTO: Cordell Richardson
Gridiron in Tasmania will take a huge step forward on Saturday when the statewide competition lives up to its name with the inclusion of the North-West Raiders into the competition.
The Raiders will begin their life with a clash with Southern club University Devils at Devonport’s Meercroft Park.
“It will be a big moment, a very big moment,’’ coach Wayne Kambuzuna said.
“We are all prepared for it and we are hoping we get a lot of numbers coming to watch the North-West team, as it is history-making.
“At the moment we can run the ball and pass the ball and we have pretty much every weapon at our disposal. The guys who have never played before, they have picked it up like nothing else.
“The defensive side is unbelievable and we can make big tackles,and we can make really big stoppages when we need to, so I’m not worried at all about my defence or my offence.”
And don’t start thinking the new boys are just making up the numbers.
“We are here to have a big impact in the competition,’’ he said.
“Obviously it would be a big achievement to come out with the rookie team and win the Tiger Bowl (the premiership), but at the moment our focus is taking on each game as we go.
“First off, it is obviously to win the game (on Saturday). We might be a rookie team, but definitely don’t underestimate us, as we are ready for this competition and we are ready to surprise people.
He was confident that Saturday would deliver a win against the Devils, having experienced what they can do during his time on the playing field for the Launceston Gorillas.
“I’m feeling really good ahead of the weekend,’’ he said.
“I’m really confident in how far the guys have come along and we are more than prepared for the game, but we can’t underestimate our opponents as they have come close to pulling off upsets.
“They have only won one game in nearly four years, but they are well known for nearly pulling off those upsets. But this is going to be a tough, tough competition and we know that.”
Queens Head Knights are the other team in the competition.
Gridiron Tasmania vice-president Brett Wheldon believed Saturday would be a monumental day for his sport.
“This is huge,’’ he said this week.
“Saturday will be a culmination of last three years of hard work to have a North-West team in our competition.
“It was always on the cards that this was going to happen, but the fact it has happened this year has been fantastic.
“We really are a statewide competition now and we want to continue to grow and take the sport of gridiron as far we can in Tasmania.”
Like those in charge of the Raiders, Wheldon was confident the new side wouldn’t easybeats in their first season.
“They’ve assembled a great bunch of players and I can think they can rattle a few teams this year, starting this weekend.”
The competition will run until February.
With an extra team on board, there will be a preliminary final as part of the fixture this season, where previously the top two teams went straight into the Tiger Bowl.
Saturday’s game will start at 2pm.