Injuries hit Kootingal for showdown with Barraba

PREMIERS Barraba will make the trip to Kootingal tomorrow to fight it out for the top of the table in a much-anticipated Second Division clash.

Following the game there will only be one undefeated side left in the competition.

While Kooty is going in with a lean squad of 17 after a string of bad injuries has taken its toll, captain coach Nathan Hamlin said there would  be no excuses.

“I am seeing a season-ending injury every week,” Hamlin said.

Five-eighth Brett Cloake and James Considine are both out for the season, as are a few others. 

Mitchell Baker is out with a hand injury and dangerous hooker Matt McCullogh is away this week despite pleas from Hamlin to his wife to let him stay and play.

“We are still all right and are going out there to win,” Hamlin said.

“It is games like this that we train for all year.

While the Roosters are undefeated, the coach said they still hadn’t put a full 80 minutes together yet.

“We start strong then we have 40 minutes of silly penalties in the middle and then finish strong.”

“We can’t afford to give the ball to Barraba.”

Barraba is the benchmark this season and has been for a few years as it manages to keep the same core squad of players together.

The Bulldogs won’t have played for three weeks tomorrow following a bye and the long weekend.

Captain coach Tim Coombes said that the break was good for a few players, with niggling injuries but not so good for match fitness.

“I think we are going to learn a lot on Saturday,” Coombes said.

“They are undefeated for a reason and so are we.”

Barraba has had a good run with the draw so far but is  about to embark on a tough three weeks.

Following Kooty, the Bulldogs will then play Dungowan for the first time and then Boggabri the next week.

“We just need to stick to our plan and play to our strengths,” Coombes said.

Led by the captain, Barraba has one of the most dangerous packs in the comp which just relentlessly rolls the ball forward for 80 minutes.

Jayse Starr is having a huge season at lock and, with Joey Latham directing a backline that contains Luke White among others, they have plenty of points in them.

They are averaging 42 points a game this season already, the best in the comp.

They also have the best defensive record, only letting in 58 points in five appearances.

The Roosters, on the other hand, have let in 90 points, although average 37 points a game themselves.

With statistics like that, tomorrow should have plenty in it for the crowd.

The two sides last met at the Wests Knockout where a tough semi-final saw a 12-10 result go to Barraba, who went on to beat Dungowan in the final.

“That was a tough game and I expect this one will be no different,” Coombes said.

“Whoever makes the least mistakes will win it.”

In other games, Manilla will head into the mountains to play Bendemeer in a bottom of the table clash and Werris Creek will host Dungowan.

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