NARRABRI can effectively guarantee a top two finish and deliver the knock-out blow to Moree’s tenuous hopes at Dangar Park today.
With eight points to peg back on the Blue Boars and Pirates, a loss would make it pretty much impossible for the premiers to make the two.
Accordingly the Blue Boars are bracing for a Bulls barrage.
“We just need to turn up really enthusiastic and ready for the game,” Blue Boars co-coach Tom Cullen said.
“We know Moree have to win this game to keep their top two hopes alive and they’ll be gunning for the win.”
Cullen has been playing off the bench the last few games.
It’s been good, he said and given him a bit of a different perspective.
“It’s just good to get on the field.
“See how the boys are talking and see who’s working,” he said.
He said it’s certainly made him less critical.
The Blue Boars have the playbook to beat the Bulls but haven’t spoken a lot about their win five weeks ago.
They recognise that the Bulls were pretty flat.
“It definitely wasn’t the side they can be,” Cullen said.
He felt the breakdown would be the critical area.
“It’s all about attitude for us,” he said.
“If we turn up with intent we’ll blow them off the breakdown.”
But if they lose their attitude they could lose the game.
The breakdown is central to the up tempo game they want to play.
They play a fast, attacking tempo and when they’ve got the support there and can execute that quick game they are very dangerous.
But as Pirates showed the other week, if you can shut them down at the breakdown you can stifle their attack.
The Bulls aren’t preoccupied with positions. It’s “about getting into form”.
“We’ve just slipped off lately,” coach Damien Kelly said.
That loss to the Blue Boars was the start of it. Kelly conceded he can’t put his finger on why they’re not playing well, but said they’re running out of time to turn things around.
He spoke about needing to play with more urgency in general and at the breakdown, and defend with more urgency.
“We don’t seem to have the desire to protect our line like we have been,” he said.
A lot will hinge on how their defence stands up.
“If we don’t defend well, Narrabri will put points on us,” he said.
“When we played Narrabri last time they scored within about 40 seconds.”
It put them on the back foot pretty much straight away.
“Once they get a lead they’re pretty good at defending it,” Kelly said.
The midfield has been where the problems have been. They’ve been letting a few guys through.
They can’t afford to do that today.
“If the Narrabri backs fire we’ll be in trouble if we don’t keep an eye on them,” Kelly said.
Conversely if they can get their backline running they can cause the Blue Boars some headaches.
In the other Tier 1 game Gunnedah heads up to Inverell.
The last encounter between the two was a pretty tight tussle with the Red Devils just getting home 32-27.