A vital cog in Saints machine
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
COMING into the world of AFL at a late stage has proven no hurdle for Rowan Dagger when it comes to becoming a vital cog in the Sawtell machine.
In only his second season, the 25 year-old has become a permanent fixture in the Saints' defensive unit often being given the role of negating the influence of the oppositions best forward.
This afternoon, you can guarantee Dagger will be at the forefront of Sawtell's defensive plans when the Saints take on Port Macquarie in the do or die Preliminary Final.
"This is a very big game for us," Dagger admitted.
"Really this one is all or nothing basically."
That sums up Preliminary finals to a tee.
If you win, you progress to the grand final and get a shot at glory. Lose and it is curtains for the year.
Many are surprised that the Saints are playing this afternoon as they were the hot favourites last week to qualify directly for the grand final but performed below par.
"Last week was definitely a wake up call for us," the full back explained.
"It opened our eyes and showed that we can't go out there and just waltz around and expect to win.
"There's still a few injuries around from last week but all the boys are backing up this week which shows that we're all keen."
Sawtell are again the favourites today having defeated the Magpies in each of their three meetings this season.
Dagger quickly dismisses talk though that the Saints are assured of victory number four.
"Beating them before gives us confidence but we're certainly not over confident," Dagger warned.
"If you look at those three matches you'll see that they were all close games."
While Port Macquarie have been in four of the past five grand finals, Sawtell will be chasing their first grand final appearance since 1998.
Without wanting to look too far ahead, Dagger admits that he is excited about the prospect of playing in a grand final.
"I'm just looking forward to the atmosphere and the experience of it all," he said.
"The number of people who play their whole careers without even getting to a grand final is unbelievable."
But Dagger does know that there is a major obstacle that needs to be overcome before he gets to play on North Coast AFL's biggest stage.
"We've just got to try and keep doing the same things that we've done all year and make sure that we go in hard for the ball."