GAINING THE UPPER HAND: Taking their battle on to the pitch tonight are Western Spirit midfielder Shaun Kitching and Ipswich City defender Chris Denman. The game is the first for both teams in 2009.
GAINING THE UPPER HAND: Taking their battle on to the pitch tonight are Western Spirit midfielder Shaun Kitching and Ipswich City defender Chris Denman. The game is the first for both teams in 2009. Rob Williams

Ipswich derby kicks off

WHEN you love your footy and have plenty to play for, nothing beats the challenge of a local derby.

But when you've come off a frustrating season, an all-Ipswich battle has extra appeal.

That's the case at Brassall tonight for Western Spirit midfielder Shaun Kitching and Ipswich City defender Chris Denman.

Both players are anxious to kick off a new season in winning style when they represent their teams in a mouth-watering Division 2 season opener at Sutton Park.

After a tough 2008 season plagued by injury setbacks, Kitching is well rested and ready to make an impact.

“I just wanted to get it right,” Kitching, 23, said of his troublesome thigh.

The former Premier League midfielder has been wrapped in proverbial cotton wool by Spirit coach Chris McCabe.

In recent trials, Kitching played about half an hour against Southport and an hour against Taringa.

“I feel really good,” Kitching said, being buoyed by his engagement to Ashlee and the birth of their son Cooper.

“It will be good to just get back out there and get in the swing of things.

“In the local derby I reckon the first 15 minutes will be pretty fast and furious.

“When it settles down, hopefully both teams can give a good spectacle for the crowd.”

For Denman, tonight is about getting his team off to a solid start after the Bulls were almost relegated last season.

“I always look forward to the local derby,” Denman said.

With the Bulls since he was nine, Denman said the 2009 squad had a competitive pre-season.

“It's been pretty good so far,” Denman, 24, said.

“We've pretty much won all our trial games except for one.

“Last year, all the way through the pre-season, you could just see bad signs. But this year it's been good.”

The Bulls have lost Mitch Davis to Lions and have Jared Fisher, Norbert Duga and Chris Kickbusch serving carry-over suspensions from last season.

However, the Bulls have picked up Brisbane Force player Scott Dymock and welcome experienced campaigner Vaughn Cocks back as assistant coach.

“It's a big one to start the year,” Bulls coach Trent Abel said of the derby. “This will let us know where we are at.”

McCabe said his team's early focus was reducing the mistakes that cost them a grand final spot last year.

“I'm really happy with the way the club is at the moment,” McCabe said.

“Last year, we had about 13 or 14 A-graders and struggled when we had a few injuries.

“This year, we've got real depth right down to our 18th and even our 20th player.”

As a former player with a proud Ipswich background, McCabe enjoys the derbies.

“They are always 50-50 games,” he said, having beaten the Bulls once and drawing with City in last season's other derby.

Tonight's reserve grade game between Spirit and City is at 6.30pm, with the main game at 8.30pm.



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