A pivotal moment
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE battle of two in-form five-eighths will go a long way to determining the outcome of tomorrow's blockbuster Carlton Mid Group 2 major preliminary semi-final at Sawtell's Rex Hardaker Oval tomorrow. Both Adam Loudon from Sawtell Panthers and Woolgoolga's Arthur Murray have stolen the show with some outstanding peformances for their respective sides this season and can turn a match at the drop of a hat. These two highly skilled players are the focus of their team's attack and whoever can control play the best will take a giant stride towards the major semi-final next weekend at Port Macquarie. Woolgoolga Seahorses captain-coach John Cross has been quick to grab the underdog tag in the lead-up to the big clash. The Seahorses are rated as almost unstoppable when they're firing but Cross believes that all the pressure tomorrow will be on Sawtell. "I think this is a must win game for them," he added. "Don't get me wrong, we want to win but I think playing at home, Sawtell have to win. "They lost both of their semi's last year and I think they've only won one semi out of their last seven so if they can't win on home soil this week then it will be hard for them to get through after that, especially playing away every week. "We're treating this game as though it's their grand final." As the leader of the Sawtell pack, captain-coach Craig Wallace scoffed at suggestions that all the pressure is on his team. In fact he added that he's not too concerned about the result. "Whether we finish the game as winners or losers, what I'm most worried about is that our boys gave it the full 110 per cent and really put the effort in," he retorted. "If we do that and don't win then you can hold your head high and say that you were beaten by a better side on the day. "We just want to look after ourselves, concentrate on our game and play our style of football." Make no mistake though, Wallace is pleased that the game is being played on the familiar turf of Rex Hardaker Oval. "It's important that the players enjoy the moment becuase it's not often that you get to play in such a big game with a big crowd on your home soil," he explained. "The last two years we should've had this game at home but the way circumstances turned out, it didn't allow it to happen." Last year, Woolgoolga fell agonisingly short of a grand final berth when they went down to Orara Valley in an extra time thriller in the preliminary Final. Returning to the scene of that crime tomorrow, Cross thinks that his team is better prepared for semi-final football this time around. "Last year I think it was a bonus just to be in the semi's," he said. "This year I believe the players think that they deserve to be there. "If you finish in the top three at any stage then you've got to give yourself a chance of winning the comp."