AFTER a strong early charge, Inverell finds itself fighting to stay in the top five and things won’t get any easier today with the Highlanders off to Narrabri.
The Blue Boars are yet to drop a game and have racked up some impressive scores in recent weeks.
“Narrabri have been on fire,” Highlanders coach Scott Bremner said.
“They’ve obviously been playing extremely well and have put plenty of points on.”
The Highlanders haven’t been and, more than anything, not executing.
“We’ve been our own worst enemies,” Bremner said.
“Our decision process hasn’t been good and we’ve been giving away stupid penalties.”
You can’t afford to do that against sides like the Blue Boars.
Bremner said they have tweaked things a bit for today position-wise, mainly to improve their ability to recycle the ball and involve their backs more.
They want to make sure they’re seeing more of the ball.
What they need to do today isn’t too dissimilar to what they had to do against the Bulls last week, and didn’t.
Bremner rates the sides fairly similar, although the Blue Boars are probably a bit sharper in the backs.
They will, accordingly, be “very conscious of our defensive line”.
The Blue Boars are also conscious of their defence, especially in the centres.
That’s where they see the Highlanders’ strength being.
The home side has to rejig its own centre pairing, with Matt McDonnell only lasting 10 minutes into his comeback injury game last week and now out with an ankle injury.
Mike Boyle comes in for him, while Mitch Kelly will have his first start at outside centre.
Kelly played for the Blue Boars a couple of seasons ago before returning to his league roots and Wee Waa last season, and is a big addition.
“He’s excellent in defence and also runs great natural lines,” Blue Boars co-coach Hunter Harley said.
He isn’t expecting the Highlanders to play much differently to what they have in the past.
“We expect them to play ad-lib footy and not be afraid to throw the ball around,” he said.
The focus for them is reading the tempo of the game better and being more effective in their cleanout.
In today’s other games, Quirindi is home to Walcha, Gunnedah heads to Barraba and Tamworth chases a third straight win down in Scone.