When the Goulburn City Bulldogs took to the field last weekend against the Gungahlin Bulls, the odds were against them.
The field had been reduced to mud by rain and snow the night before, while the Bulldogs were fresh off an upset draw against the last-placed Woden Rams and facing a Bulls team which had only lost once all year.
But that did not stop the visitors at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval from putting on one of their best performances of the season and securing a 22-22 draw.
"I thought against the Bulls, we managed to put more of a consistent effort in for the whole 80 minutes against the Bulls than we did against the Rams," Goulburn co-coach Tyson Greenwood said.
"But with the Bulls, we put 80 minutes together and we were with them the whole match. It just shows what we're capable of doing, we can match it with the top teams."
Much of the Bulldogs' success, Greenwood said, followed a short-notice change of plans after the club's Reserve Grade match, which was based on the conditions of the field.
"We were probably lucky," he said.
"Playing in Reserve Grade beforehand allowed both Jesse [Martin, Greenwood's co-coach] and me to identify that the middle was absolutely chopped up. We wanted to avoid that as much as we could, so we played down a corridor that had had less traffic, and I think that worked to our advantage early in the game."
The Bulldogs had a total of seven players in its First Grade side who also played Reserve Grade on the day. Greenwood praised this group for their tenacity and fitness after two grueling matches.
"There was 17 blokes that played that day, and seven of them played Reserve Grade too," he said.
"To back up and come away with the draw with boys doing double efforts is very rewarding and good for the club."
The Bulldogs were unaffected by the CRRL's cancellation of all senior rugby league yesterday, as the club had byes in all grades regardless.
However, next weekend, Goulburn will face one of its biggest challenges against an old rival: the Queanbeyan Blues.
The Blues have sat just below the Bulls for most of the 2021 season and currently boast a record of nine wins and two losses. The last time Goulburn and Queanbeyan played, the latter came away with a 38-20 result which did not reflect just how close the match was.
"Historically, playing the Blues is always a tough game, and you can never go into it under-prepared," Greenwood said.
"You've got to take it as it comes and be willing to match them. Last time we played, we matched them for 62 minutes of the game and unfortunately let them back in during the last 18 minutes.
"Hopefully this time around, we can put in a whole 80-minute effort against them."
The Blues will likely have a size advantage on the field and, with the return of the veteran Terry Campese in their spine, will likely have the edge in experience too.
But with the infusion of confidence that the side received after its draw against the Bulls, Greenwood and the Bulldogs know they have what it takes to upset any of the top teams.
Goulburn will play Queanbeyan on Sunday, August 1, at the Goulburn Workers Arena.
The day will begin with the League Tag at 10am, to be followed by the Katrina Fanning Shield at 11am, the Under 19s at noon, Reserve Grade at 1.30pm and First Grade at 3pm.
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