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It’s been a tough start to the 2023 Group 9 season for reigning premiers Gundagai.

Plenty of player turnover during the off-season, coupled with injuries and player availability, meant the Tigers started the season with just one win to be bottom of the table before Sunday's Round Five match against the Junee Diesels.

Playing at Anzac Park, Gundagai bounced back in excellent style, with the home side jumping out to a 20-0 lead before consolidating a 34-8 victory.

“We had to turn it around,” Gundagai co-coach Derek Hay said.

“Last week (against Tumut) wasn’t good enough, and we addressed that with everyone at training, and everyone is on board, and hopefully, it’s onwards and upward.”

Junee has struggled, with the Diesels winless after five rounds, but Hay was full of praise for an outfit returning to the first-grade competition for the first time since 2020.

“It was pleasing to see the boys tough it out for the first 20 minutes,” Hay said.

“Junee is not a bad side, and they stuck it to us but for a bit, and we said before the game we needed to stay in the grind and play for long periods, and we could do that.

“It was 20-0 at half-time; we scored some points at the back end of the half, and that came on the back of us staying in the grind and playing our brand of footy.

“We were switched on, and we turned the tables with our enthusiasm, attitude, and effort, which was really pleasing.”

Gundagai has been the benchmark in the Group 9 competition for more than a decade, and while the club is confident they will compete for a premiership in 2023, Hay is also focused on developing the big crop of youngsters coming through.

“It’s been challenging, but it's also enjoyable,” Hay said.

“It’s great seeing guys like Nick McDonald, Toby Dasey, Wilson Hamblin, Kaidan Bell and Zac Fairall playing.

“A lot of these younger guys have not played a lot of first-grade footy, and Dunny (Blake Dunn) and I are torn between coaching and managing.

“A few of those older guys have been around for a while, and all they need is managing, but with the young fellas, they need a lot of coaching because they are the guys you want around for the next five to ten years.

“Hopefully, we coach them now, and as a club, we can reap the rewards further down the track.

“In saying all that, I’ve got no doubt we can still win the comp this season if we get a full team on deck and play our best footy.”

Gundagai travels to Young's Alfred Oval on Sunday and will put in a challenge for the Group 9 Challenge Cup when taking on the Cherrypickers in Round Six of the competition.

“This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to challenge for it,” Hay said.

“Last season, it avoided us in the draw, but it's a great concept that Group 9 have put on, and it’s a good initiative.

“We think every club should be challenging every week, and there would be nothing better than taking it off Young on Sunday.

“They will want to bounce back, and it’s always tough over there, but they don’t handle the big occasions, and I’m confident we can go over there and get the job done.

In other Group 9 Round Five games played over the weekend, Tumut caused a boilover on Saturday, with the Blues defeating the previously unbeaten Young Cherrypickers 34-0 at Twickenham.

Brayden Draber crossed for a hat-trick of tries in the big win, with Tumut now fourth on the ladder, While Young dropped back to second.

Temora were also big winners on Saturday, with the Dragons bouncing back to beat the South City Bulls 36-6 at Nixon Park.

Round Six (Saturday May 27): Junee Diesels v Wagga Kangaroos at Laurie Daley Oval; (Sunday May 28): Young Cherrypickers v Gundagai Tigers at Alfred Oval, South City Bulls v Tumut Blues at Harris Park.

Group 9 first grade ladder: Wagga Kangaroos 8, Young Cherrypickers 8, Temora Dragons 6, Tumut Blues 6, Albury Thunder 6, South City Bulls 6, Gundagai Tigers 4, Junee Diesels 4.

Group 9 reserve grade ladder: Young Cherrypickers 10, South City Bulls 8, Wagga Kangaroos 6, Tumut Blues 6, Albury Thunder 6, Gundagai Tigers 4, Junee Diesels 4, Temora Dragons 4, Wagga Brothers 2.

Group 9 League Tag ladder: Temora Dragons 10, Wagga Kangaroos 10, Albury Thunder 9, Wagga Brothers 6, Junee Diesels 4, Tumut Blues 4, Young Cherrypickers 4, South City Bulls 3, Gundagai Tigers 0.

Group 9 Weissel Cup ladder: Young Cherrypickers 10, Tumut Blues 8, South City Bulls 8, Wagga Brothers 8, Wagga Kangaroos 6, Temora Dragons 4, Junee Diesels 4.

Group 9 Sullivan Cup ladder: Young Cherrypickers 10, Junee Diesels 10, South City Bulls 8, Wagga Kangaroos 6, Cootamundra Bulldogs 6, Albury Thunder 6, Gundagai Tigers 2.

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