CENTRAL North has had to make a couple of adjustments but is still confident it has the cattle to knock off Newcastle and secure a Caldwell Cup finals berth today.
The Wildfires are aiming for a sixth straight Country Championship title and go into the weekend undoubtedly as favourites.
Not though in the hosts’ minds. They’re ready to take it to their highly-fancied opponents.
“We’re very keen,” Kookaburras coach Josh Clift said.
“We’ve got the team capable of doing it.”
They plan to fight fire with fire with Clift and co-coach Ross Duncan opting for a “very physical” side.
They’ve got size and abrasiveness littered through the pack, and also in the backs.
“We’re not going to beat them in the fitness stakes, we’re going to have to beat them physically,” Clift said.
The likes of Damien Kelly, Matt Wannan and Ben Ham will set the tone in that regard.
That’s part of the thinking in bringing Ham into the starting side.
He’s been promoted to the side with Wannan moving back to number eight.
“Ben Ham is really starting to look quite sharp,” Clift said.
“He’s very physical. That’s what we want.”
The changes see Lachlan Brown shifting to the bench. He’ll be utilised as an impact
“The backrow looks good,” Clift said.
“We’ve got a lot of depth there.”
They’ve also got a bit of speed and plenty of ball-playing ability through the backs.
“(Mick) Hockey, Tourley (Elliot Tourle), Brenton (Cochrane), Moods (Andrew Moodie), even Fish (Nathan Hamlin).
“For someone his size he’s pretty handy with the ball.”
Hamlin comes into the starting side, with Simon Newton unavailable, to rekindle his partnership with Moodie.
They were the Kookaburras centre partnership when they reached the final two years ago.
That game they played Newcastle.
“We were close in the first half but they smoked us in the second,” skipper Josh Stewart recalled.
Cochrane could be a real X-factor at the back.
“We’ve pretty much given him a licence to do what he wants,” Clift said.
They’ve got good finishing ability outwide too in Richard Young and Marley Fauii.
Clift is expecting the Wildfires to play a more running style of game.
“They’ve picked a mobile pack,” he said.
“They’ll be looking to run it around, move it side to side.”
“It’s a matter of us really marking up in defence, in the midfield, and our pillar and post.”
He said their communication in defence will be critical and making sure they put their hits on.
“Defence will win the game,” he said.
There was a lot to like about what the Kookaburras did in their trial against New England two weeks ago, but they do need to improve their scrummaging.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the scrum machine,” Clift said.
“I’m expecting us to do well.”
They scrummaged well below what their capable of and if they do the same today, they’ll get crucified.
Illawarra and Central Coast clash in the other semi-final.