Dane Tilse can’t really recall the last time he was part of a finals campaign, but he knows it has been a little while.
That’s why the former NRL and English Super League prop is counting down the hours to this Saturday when the Pickers host Kurri Kurri at Maitland Sportsground in an elimination semi-final.
“It’s very exciting,” Tilse told the Newcastle Herald.
“I haven’t played in semis for a fair few years now and haven’t really been in that hunt for a grand final.
“I think the highest I’ve finished is fifth in a top-eight set up.”
Tilse, with the Canberra Raiders for semis in 2012, was one of five players at McDonald Jones Stadium on Wednesday representing the Newcastle Rugby League clubs vying for the premiership during next month.
Maitland missed an opportunity to claim the minor premiership in the last round and instead slipped to fourth place on a congested competition ladder, now facing in-form Kurri for the second straight weekend but this time in a do-or-die encounter.
“We’ve sort of put that straight behind us,” Tilse said.
“We knew we didn’t aim up out there [at Kurri] or play well. If we can get back to basics we know we’ve got that belief and the ability as well.”
Tilse said his main message to the Pickers squad, which narrowly avoided a third consecutive wooden spoon last year, would be simple” “We just need cool heads under pressure”.
The Pickers last played finals in 2012 after winning back-to-back titles.
Elsewhere and Central host Souths in the qualifying semi-final at St John Oval on Sunday while minor premiers Lakes have the weekend off.