PIRATES will be looking to rectify their first round misgivings when they travel out to Narrabri today, but will be up against a Blue Boars side still yet to drop a game and with a mounting injury toll.
What was a problem of halves has stretched to the forwards with Conrad Starr and Barton Leach the latest injury casualties.
There’s no Blake Pollock or Ben Goodman either, Goodman serving a one-match suspension.
On the plus side they do get Josh Stewart back, but coach Andrew Verrell couldn’t recall seeing an injury toll like what they have in his time at the club.
“We’ve had to reinvent the forward pack,” he said.
Fortunately the backs are relatively intact with Andrew Moodie set to make his return at five-eighth and Zeb Buchanan right to play at half-back.
“We’re not that disrupted in the backs.
“There’s no excuses there,” Verrell said.
He admitted it’s not an ideal situation and while he has faith in the players coming in, the question mark will be over their forwards and whether they can match it with the Blue Boars.
“We’re going to have to really muscle up in the forwards,” he said.
Especially in the scrums.
That will be even more of a test with the changes, and they are expecting the Blue Boars to have a crack at them.
“Hopefully we can stem the tide a little bit there,” Verrell said.
“If we can get parity in possession we’ll be in the game.”
Their defensive structure and speed off the line will also be crucial.
“We’ve got to shut down their time and space,” he said.
“Once they get a bit of tempo they get a roll on.”
The Blue Boars snatched the points in their earlier meeting but Pirates had their chances and were left ruing turning down a couple of penalty shots.
Neither side is reading too much into that result though. A lot has changed since then.
The home side will be on a high after rolling Moree last week and can really enforce their top two credentials with a win today.
It will start with the forwards. That’ll be the key area, co-coach Hunter Harley said.
“We need to assert some dominance in the set pieces,” he said.
They feel they’re a fair chance of doing that.
“We seemed to match Moree there and Moree seemed to think they did okay against them,” he said.
They’ll also be looking to the tight five to really get them going from the breakdown.
Possession will also be a critical factor.
“The key for us in any game is to win our own ball,” Harley said.
“If we can get 50 per cent of the possession we’re confident we can score points.”
They have only minimal changes with Matt McDonnell making his return at inside centre and Mitch Kelly shifting out to outside for Dave Boyle.