If Carter Gordon and his motivated Wests teammates do everything right they will miss out on any home field advantage in the finals of the StoreLocal Hospital Cup.
Five days of finals rugby are being spread across grassroots club venues before the season climax at Suncorp Stadium on September 18.
GPS, Bond University, Brothers and Wests will share hosting rights across the grades with Ballymore out of commission.
Wests’ Sci-Fleet Stadium will host the minor semi-final on September 4 which will be irrelevant to the Bulldogs if they continue their winning ways.
The Bulldogs are setting the pace on top of the table which means they are tracking towards a major semi-final appearance at GPS’ home ground at Yoku Road on September 3.
The preliminary final will be played at Bond University on September 11.
The Bulldogs are trying hard not to look too far ahead, but the hurt of last year’s semi-final exit is still too raw to always make that possible.
The Bulldogs raced to a 24-3 lead over GPS and seemed headed to their first grand final since 2006. Instead, players sunk to the turf in despair at full-time when Jeeps stole a thriller 41-39 with a Jason Hofmeyr conversion from the sideline.
It adds a little extra edge to the Bulldogs making their return to Ashgrove on Saturday to face GPS for the first time since that day.
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have our eyes set on a premiership,” flyhalf Gordon said.
“The focus has been very game-by-game to make that possible. Securing a finals spot, doing our individual jobs better and playing well in tight finishes has all been a part of it. We are just focusing on GPS on Saturday.”
Gordon feels the Bulldogs have learned from the tough lesson at Ashgrove last year.
“Being so far in front, with so much momentum, and giving it away made that semi-final loss hurt the most,” Gordon said.
“We all got a bit frazzled at the back end of the game and playing better in the final few minutes of games has been a work-on for us.”
That’s why the 24-20 result over Brothers last month was so important with clutch scrummaging forcing a penalty try at the death to win it at Crosby Park.
“Absolutely, that was a turning point to win a close one on full-time just as it was to hold out Sunnybank (20-15) with good defense in the closing 10 minutes recently,” Gordon said.
“Saturday’s game against GPS is definitely a big one for us against a powerhouse team. Because of what happened in the semi last year, we are going into it like a final so hopefully we come away with the treats.”
Gordon has been back for three games now since recovering from a broken finger at the end of Super Rugby Pacific.
The Melbourne Rebels regular has been playing first grade at Wests since he was 18. Getting to play with brother Mason in the same backline is a bonus.
“We grew up training together on the Sunshine Coast, but the rare chance to play together at Wests is great,” Gordon, 21, said.
“Knowing my role fully and fitting back into the team is the main thing for me at the moment.
“We have a really good squad assembled at Wests and everyone doing their jobs well is what we work at.”
Wests do have class in the halves with Gordon and sniping halfback Moses Sorovi, who forms part of the Rebels contingent playing in Premier Rugby.
“The Brisbane-based players do their daytime training sessions for the Rebels at Wests so that’s created a connection,” Gordon said.
“You have players like Lukas Ripley and Nick Jooste at UQ and Brad Wilkin at Easts so there are Rebels players at different clubs.”
Having Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese, the former Wallaby, appear for Wests last weekend was no sign of a downgraded role for regular Ethan Dobbins, who came off the bench.
It was a chance to give Dobbins a well-deserved freshen-up. He has played himself to a standstill as one of Premier Rugby’s best forwards this season with his high work rate, mobility and skills. He must catch the eye of Super Rugby scouts before long.
In brief, the minor and major semi-finals in all grades and the women’s division will be played at GPS and Wests on the September 3-4 weekend.
The preliminary finals will be shared between Brothers and Bond University on the September 10-11 weekend.
Grand final day will be at Wests for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, Colts 2 and Colts 3 on Saturday, September 17.
The premiership deciders locked in for Suncorp Stadium on September 18 are for women (11am), Colts 1 (1pm) and first grade (3.10pm).