NORTH Tamworth hooker Jake Hawkins is battling a foot injury to take his place in the Bears’ lineup for Sunday’s Wests Cup Group 4 Grand Final against minor premiers West Lions at Scully Park.
The talented rake, who returned to North from the NRL lower divisions midway through this season, was injured in Sunday’s 42-32 preliminary final win over Wee Waa at Wee Waa.
He has been named at number nine for the game but coach Brad McManus was tightlipped about his chances of playing at Wednesday’s Group 4 presentation night in Gunnedah.
“We’ll see how he goes at training,” McManus said.
“But we’ve been lucky with injury and been able to field the same side for the last three or four games.
“It’s good to keep the same team together and go into a grand final with a lot of momentum.”
Apart from Hawkins, the Bears are injury-free as are the Lions, who have had a week off to repair any niggling injuries.
West Lions coach Tony La Chiusa named a full-strength side yesterday.
“It’s the first time we’ve fielded our top 18 this year.
“It’s a good game to be able to do that.”
Prop Scott Rolls has returned from injury and will start in the front row with rampaging Chris Vidler and captain Brendan Hunt.
“Scotty had 10 minutes in the major semi against Wee Waa and came through unscathed,” La Chiusa said.
“We took him as a precaution but he’s right now with the week off and keen as mustard.
“With him back we’ve got all our big guys back and healthy.”
Rolls and Vidler were in contention for The Leader Group 4 Player of the Year Award at Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club on Wednesday but had to play second fiddle to North Tamworth prop Marshall Barker.
Barker edged out Narrabri captain-coach Sean Russ for the prestigous best and fairest award.
The 29-year-old Barker hasn’t played in a Group 4 grand final since 2004 when he was in the centres for his home town Moree.
“We played Wee Waa,” Barker recalled on Wednesday night.
“They had Jamie Lyon come back for that year and he played five-eighth for them.
“I played in the centres and was up against Graeme Smallwood, a Country centre.”
He also played in a grand final for the Moree Under 18s but they were beaten by Coonabarabran.
Both Moree sides were coached by Paul Raveneau.
Marshall is hoping his Player of the Year Award is the springboard to team success on Sunday.
Controlling Matty Nean and his freakish attacking ability will be a main concern for Norths, Marshall told the assembled crowd at Wednesday’s awards night.
He cannot ever remember tackling the little fullback but is confident he and his Bears can rope in the talented young Lion and his teammates at Scully on Sunday.