GUNNEDAH co-coach Tim Walsh has ruled out climbing the ladder for the rest of the season, instead keen to focus on retaining fourth place as the Red Devils prepare to meet the premiers in Moree tomorrow.
Since the central North competetion split into two tiers three weeks ago, the Devils have remained in fourth, with big hitters Pirates, Narrabri and Moree in front of them.
“I don’t think we can get to third,” Walsh said.
“Those top three will cannibalise each other as the season goes on.
“We just need to keep performing well against them and keep our spot so we are well practised against them come the finals.”
Walsh believes the new system has turned the competition into a war of attrition.
With high-intensity games every week, the teams that have the least injuries will come to the top at finals time.
“We have a bit of depth and it has been tested which is good,” Walsh said.
“We just need to hold on to fourth.”
Inverell may be the side that misses out this year, despite scraping into the top tier.
The Highlanders sit 11 points adrift of Gunnedah and will need a lot of things to go their way if they are to feature in any footy come September.
The Red Devils will be facing a team that knows all about finals footy tomorrow at Weebollabolla Oval.
The visitors will look to move the premiers around the field, going for speed and fitness over size and strength.
The return of fly half Peter Henderson from a toe and foot injury couldn’t have come at a better time.
Henderson had a run in reserves last week and came through untroubled.
English number eight Joe Gardner also has a perfect sense of timing that will see him miss three weeks for his sister’s wedding in England.
“Those three weeks are Moree, Pirates and Narrabri,” Walsh said.
The Red Devils know the way Moree plays but are more concerned with their own game this weekend.
“Moree have got plenty of points in their forwards and we will have to contain them there,” Walsh said.
“We need to do what we do better and not worry about them.”
The other top tier game will see Pirates host Inverell who will be desperate to pull off some miracle wins and get a chance at the finals.
Second tier rugby will see Tamworth attempt to string three wins together for the first time in a very long time when it travels to old foes Walcha, and the clash of the cellar dwellers will see Barraba host Quirindi.