By Russell Bennett
Cardinia skipper Neil Barfuss has come out all guns firing on the eve of the latest chapter in his club’s finals saga with great rival, Kooweerup.
This semi-final promises to be a fiery encounter following some pointed barbs, which – stunningly – he’s aimed squarely at some of the Demons’ biggest names… including captain-coach and former Bulls leader, Mark Cooper.
This season is the fourth year in a row the Bulls and Demons will have met in a final. Staggeringly, since the 2008/09 season, the two powerhouse clubs have met seven times in finals – including this weekend’s fixture. Four of those clashes were grand finals – three of them going the Demons’ way.
Barfuss has clearly taken a nothing-to-lose mentality into this week’s game – claiming rights to the underdog tag.
“It’s a bit different this year (than previous seasons) – we’re the heavy underdogs,” he said.
He knows that he, Dwayne Doig, Ben Maroney, and Alex Nooy have huge – potentially decisive – roles to play this weekend, but Barfuss put forward another player who he thinks will have a real impact.
“Ricky Campbell has gone to a new level,” he said.
“He’s got all the shots – probably more than some of the better players (in the competition).
“It’s just about choosing the right times to play them.”
But Barfuss knows the task ahead of his side.
“We probably have to bring them down to our level,” he said of the Demons.
“You could maybe say some of their older guys have lost that hunger (after their recent premiership success), but they clearly still have it.
“We’ll be doing what we can to put them off their game – it’ll be good old-fashioned cricket.”
Barfuss claimed the Bulls would target Cooper and in form quick Jess Mathers, specifically.
“In the game that we lost against them this season it took an extraordinary effort (Mathers’ ton) to win it for them,” he said.
“I think we match up well with them.
“It’d be a shame for them to dominate the season and then bomb out in a semi.”
Barfuss fired a shot at Cooper, saying he’d gone back on his word in not returning to the Bulls when he made his comeback to the WGCA.
“We’ll have to let him know (about it),” he said.
“He stole some of our young players and promised them the world (at Kooweerup) but we would have played them more in our ones.”
Then Barfuss turned his sights to Mathers.
“He’s very susceptible to fast and short pitched bowling early,” he said openly.
“We’ll be trying to drag them down to our level…the pressure will be all on them.
“We’ll be going hard and leaving no stone unturned.
“Coops and (Ben) Spicer have been in pretty lean form of late, and a few of our guys have copped a few bad decisions but still been hitting the ball really well.”
It seemed no one escaped Barfuss’ sights – not even the opposition supporter base.
“Our supporters will be there as they have been every week, whereas theirs are very fair weather,” he said just days before the game at the Demons’ lair at Denhams Road.
“I’m looking forward to it.
“I haven’t got many years (playing) left and it’d be nice to go out on a high.
“It’d be a great way for Luke Turner to go out too.”
Barfuss tipped “something special” from league legend Maroney this weekend, while adding Doig – the recently anointed Webster Medallist at Cardinia – had been “a pleasure to watch” all season and would continue to turn it on.
Barfuss’ comments are either a stroke of pure genius, or completely tongue-in-cheek… or maybe they’re just plain foolish. Only time will tell!