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Looking for victory

Panthers winger Matt Heidecker is prepared for the grand final tomorrow night.
Panthers winger Matt Heidecker is prepared for the grand final tomorrow night. Contributed

HIS Middlemount Panthers teammates jokingly call him "Daryl Halligan”, but a more fitting moniker for Matt Heidecker might be "The Gift”.

That's the Middlemount Panthers' explanation of the goal kicker's fortuitous arrival in the mining town with the hope he'll add the finishing touches to a Central Highlands Rugby League premiership bid on Saturday night.

Last year's runner-up will host Bluff in the grand final at Norm Blanche Oval after the Rabbitohs earned their spot with a 27-14 preliminary final win against Clermont.

Heidecker could be one of key figures in the decider.

His arrival in the Central Highlands - as a maths and science teacher at Middlemount Community School - at the start of the year was a blessing for the Panthers.

Goalkickers who strike the ball as cleanly, and accurately, as the strongly built winger are rare and the Panthers gladly welcomed him to the club.

"I wanted to work rural, put my name down for some CQ jobs, and this came up,” the Year 1 teacher said.

"It was the perfect school for me and it just so happened to have a footy club.

"It was a happy coincidence. They're a good mob.”

Heidecker ended his maiden CHRL season as the competition's leading pointscorer with 138 points from eight tries and 53 goals.

"We call him Daryl Halligan,” laughed five-eighth Mitch Wyatte, likening the sharpshooter to the former Bulldogs and North Sydney scoring machine.

"You just know if it's a tight game he's going to put them over.

"But I hope (the grand final) doesn't come down to that.”

Like Halligan, Heidecker learned his art playing rugby union.

He discovered the code at St John's College in Brisbane's south-west and played colts rugby for the University of Queensland before tertiary study become his top priority.

Heidecker's slightly hunched technique borrows a little inspiration from English rugby union great Jonny Wilkinson yet his mindset is all homespun.

"Everyone assumes you're thinking,” he said.

"For me, I've been place-kicking since I was 12 so it's less thinking, and more just letting it happen.

"If I think too much, that tends to be when I miss.”

The grand finalists split their two previous meetings earlier this year, with the Rabbitohs winning their most recent encounter at Bluff in Round 12.

Middlemount has built momentum since then, leaving captain-coach Joel Duffy with several difficult selection decisions.

At least 10 players from last year's beaten grand final team are pushing for inclusion.

Among those will be hooker Jason Randell who's hoping for at least one more appearance alongside son Jonas.

By Damien Stannard

The men will take to the field at 7.30pm after the ladies grand final which is scheduled for kick off at 5.30pm.

The Clermont Bears ladies team will be looking to re-write last year's grand final defeat when they play the Blackwater Crushettes, who are appearing in their first grand final.


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