A relieved Dusty Rogers says he owes his teammates a big performance in Sunday’s semi-final against Collingullie-Glenfield Park, admitting he cost them victory last week.
The Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes utility was cleared to play on Thursday night when the AFL Riverina independent tribunal downgraded a kneeing charge, reducing a suspension to a reprimand.
“Yeah, I’m very happy with the outcome,” Rogers said.
“Just relieved and excited that I get to play this weekend. They took a long time to make a decision but I was pretty confident.”
He wants to redeem himself against the Demons at Griffith, having already let MCUE down. He was red-carded for kneeing Leeton-Whitton’s Sam Cooper early in the last quarter of last Saturday’s qualifying final, when the Goannas trailed by just five points.
“Definitely, we were very close at that stage and then playing with one short ultimately costs us the game, so you feel like you owe the boys something,” Rogers said.
The loss put the Goannas on a collision course – in a sudden-death final – with the team that’s beaten them in the last two grand finals.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, it still hurts and if that helps motivate us then it’s a good thing,” he said.
MCUE have won both games against their arch-rivals this season but they were in round one and round 10.
There were signs in the second meeting that CGP were about to put it together and, after a loss to Wagga Tigers the following week, they’ve won seven straight.
“I don’t know if they’re as strong as they have been the last few years but they are the finals team, they’ve proven that last year when they came from fifth,” Rogers said, noting that the danger remains in familiar hands.
“The usual suspects – if (Jayden) Klemke gets his hands on the ball or (Matt) Beckmans gets a roll on, you’ll have a tough day at the office.”
Rogers said it’s a sign of the maturity in the young Goannas that they’ve barely noticed the departure of Mitch Daniher, Col Sanbrook and Andrew Pettigrove this year.
But taking on the defending premiers at Griffith’s Exies Oval is going to be a novel experience.
“It’ll even out the playing field, with both teams having to travel,” Rogers said.
“It’ll be very different – I don’t know what the crowd will be like and how many supporters will travel.”
MCUE co-coach Travis Cohalan confirmed Rogers will play but said the Goannas were yet to finalise their side to take on “one of the form teams, with Tigers.”
He said they have plenty of respect for the Demons, particularly after watching them end Griffith’s season last week.
But the major focus is on righting what went wrong against the Crows.
“We need to move the ball a bit quicker and cleaner, we didn’t move it well enough last week,” Cohalan said.
“But we didn’t question the boys effort, desire and work-rate – they had a crack.”