THE Central North second round kicks off on Saturday with a couple of crucial games that could determine how the top four plays out.
This year’s competition is arguably the closest for a while, with only six points separating the top four and only eight fourth and sixth, and no clear frontrunner.
Walcha holds down top spot heading into the second round but only tentatively, with Inverell on the same points.
The Rams have had an extra win.
Still, it’s a different situation to what they are accustomed to being in at this point of the
They are renowned for making a second-round charge.
Often though they’ve had too much ground to make up.
That’s not the case this season after dropping just the one game and winning a couple of close ones.
“To be where we are after the first half is pretty good,” Rams coach Barry Hoy said.
He’d hoped to be around where they are.
“We wanted to be within a few points of the lead,” Hoy said.
They needed to be, with the second half they have.
“We’ve got a pretty tough second half,” Hoy said.
“We’ve got Moree, Inverell, Gunnedah and Narrabri away.”
That’s the four sides below them.
The only one of the finals contenders they have at home is Pirates but that won’t be easy with the defending champions coming into form.
The Rams were one of the form teams through the first round and Hoy was pretty happy with the football they played but would like to see them consolidate a bit more.
“They tend to rush things a little bit,” he said.
Their first assignment is a road trip to Inverell for a top of the table clash.
The Highlanders will be itching to return the favour after the Rams pipped them with a penalty back in the first game of the season.
They, too, have played some impressive football and didn’t lose a game after that Rams clash, chalking up away victories over Moree and Pirates along the way.
“To be in this position at this point of the season is very pleasing,” coach Dave Kearsey said.
He said he knew at the start of the year they could be up there.
“I knew at the start of the year we had the potential to be in the top two or three,” he said.
It was just a matter of whether they lived up to that potential, which they did.
The wins against the Bulls and Pirates were the big ones and could be crucial in the second round with only Narrabri and Gunnedah of the top sides to face away.
Narrabri has also got most of its nasty trips out of the way and, after a match-up against Pirates in Tamworth to start the second round, will host all four of the sides above them.
They are only six points adrift of the four and another two in front of Pirates.
The big improvers this season are Gunnedah. The Devils head into the second round in fourth and will be looking to bounce back from successive losses against Barraba on Saturday but, like Narrabri, have played most of the top sides away.
The Bulls host Tamworth and Quirindi will celebrate ladies day against Scone in the other fixtures this Saturday.