THOMAS Ludeman says North Ballarat Rebels can match it with the TAC Cup’s best sides after booking a finals double chance.
The Warrnambool midfielder believes the Rebels will question minor premier Calder Cannons in their qualifying final showdown at Princes Park on Saturday.
Ludeman, 18, said the Rebels were gallant in their 19-point loss to the Cannons, who boast top- five afl draft contender Peter Wright, at Horsham in round 17.
North Ballarat built on that effort in the final round when it defeated fellow top four side Oakleigh Chargers in a two-point thriller.
“It showed we can match it with the best opposition when we play good football,” Ludeman said of the Cannons’ fixture.
“We matched them the whole game but we didn’t take our opportunities.
“They have three big boys over 205cm but they have smaller, quicker kids too, so it’s a bit of a mixture.
“I reckon we have a good shot.
“If we go in with confidence anything can happen.”
North Ballarat’s win over Oakleigh on Saturday bolstered its top-four chances but it was forced to wait 24 hours to find out its finals fate.
The Rebels grabbed fourth spot after Western Jets suffered a two-point loss to Gippsland Power on Sunday and slipped to sixth.
Sandringham Dragons finished fifth, below the Rebels on percentage.
A Jets’ win would have condemned the Rebels to fifth and an elimination final.
This weekend’s qualifying finals are a double-header at Carlton’s Princes Park.
Oakleigh Chargers and Geelong Falcons will play in the morning, with the Rebels-Cannons match at 2.15pm.
It will be Ludeman’s first game at the Blues’ training base.
Ludeman’s personal aims for the finals are simple:
“I just want to finish off the season well, I guess, and have a crack”.
“I have been playing a team role,” he said.
“I am getting better each week and feeling comfortable. It feels like a country club now, not a representative side, which is good.”
The apprentice plumber, who works for his father’s business in Warrnambool, said the chance to play TAC Cup had benefited his football.
He is unsure where he will play next season — perhaps in the VFL or maybe in the Hampden league — but knows wherever he ends up that he’ll be a more-rounded competitor.
“It (the TAC Cup) is so much quicker. It’s the best standard of under 18s,” he said.
“You know what it’s going to be like going higher and higher.”
Ludeman is entrenched in the Rebels’ line-up.
He is one of five regular south-west players in the David Loader-coached side, along with Portland duo Rowan Marshall and Tom Templeton, Hamilton Kangaroos’ Eric Guthrie and Warrnambool teammate Tom Schnerring.
Templeton leads the way with 17 games. Ludeman, Schnerring and Guthrie have played 16 games apiece.
Marshall, who represented Vic Country and made his VFL debut, is on 15 matches.
Ludeman said Warrnambool’s Luke McLeod (10 games) and Koroit’s James Gow (six) also stepped up in the second half of the season.
“Luke’s been good on a wing with his leg speed and James is going better too,” he said. “He’s getting games under his belt.”
The TAC Cup will have a new premier after 2013 winner Eastern Ranges — home of highly-touted midfielder Christian Petracca — finished ninth.
The grand final is at Docklands, with all other finals at Princes Park.