GUNNEDAH can lock in a return to finals football at Gunnedah today, but will have to contend with a Moree side fighting to remain in the finals hunt.
It is the Bulls’ last shot.
With just three rounds remaining it will be near impossible for them to fight their way back into the four if they come up empty-handed, even with two winnable games to finish on.
It represents the rollercoaster this season has been. Only last week they were in the four, but with successive losses they find themselves in fifth.
Now they’ve got to get back up – and quickly.
“This is our last chance. We’ll be throwing everything at them,” Bulls coach Jamie Hardman said.
They were fairly well beaten when they met up in Moree, and can’t afford to be as lacklustre as they were then.
“I don’t think we were that good last time we played them,” Hardman said.
“They opened us up in the centres fairly well.
“In the forwards we competed well.”
They’ve looked to stiffen up the midfield by shifting Ben Colley out to the centres and Simon Hall back to the
“Ben’s probably got more speed than Simon and is more accustomed to playing there,” Hardman said.
Having Jason Webb available means they don’t lose too much by taking Colley out of breakaway.
Hardman said shutting the Red Devils down in the midfield will be a “big start” to getting the result they need.
It was a matter of shutting down their time and putting pressure on them when they had the ball.
They also had to “play what’s in front of them a bit more”.
“We’ve been a bit complacent keeping the ball,” Hardman said.
He said they had been giving the ball up cheaply with silly kicks downfield and not taking on the defence when the opportunity was there.
They’ve got players that can do some damage when they do that.
Red Devils coach Paul Brady is expecting the Bulls to chance their arm.
“They’ll have a red-hot crack at us knowing they’ve got to win,” he said.
But it is equally as important a match for them.
They have a tougher last couple of games than the Bulls with Pirates and Inverell still to come.
The earlier win up at Moree was massive for their season and confidence, and they have the blueprint for beating the Bulls.
“What we did up there was a massive effort,” Brady said.
“We had them covered in all facets ,I think.
“That was probably one of our best performances for the year for 80 minutes.”
He’ll be looking for more of the same.
“Last time we were up there we defended well.
“Our line speed was good and we didn’t give them much momentum,” he said.
Damien Kelly was destructive running wide of the ruck, but Gunnedah shut down their main artillery – him, Colley and Heath Riggs – reasonably well.
The key will be not to get too over-committed to the breakdown, something that has been a problem at times.
“If we do that they’ll hurt us outwide,” he said.
He thinks it will come down to the last 10 minutes.
The 10 either side of half-time would be crucial too.