NARRABRI Blues did Gunnedah Bulldogs a huge favour last week when they came from a 12 point first half deficit to beat West Lions 50-22.
Tomorrow Gunnedah will want to reply to that effort by beating the Blues on their home ground in front of their fans in a traditional local derby at Collins Park.
By doing so the Bulldogs can secure a major semifinal spot and a vital double chance in the Group 4 premiership race.
While the other two Group 4 matches are played in Tamworth today – West Lions v Oxley Diggers at Scully Park and unbeaten North Tamworth against Wee Waa Panthers at Jack Woolaston Oval – tomorrow’s derby at Collins Park offers much for the Bulldogs and Blues.
“It’s a massive game for us,” Bulldogs coach Shane Rampling said this week.
“Narrabri had a good win last week over West. They’ve done us a favour but have got to be up for this match.
“We need to take some semifinal attitude into these last three games,
“If we win this week it pretty much secures us second spot.
“‘That’s huge motivation for us. Been a while since a Gunnedah side that high. We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s not going to be easy out there.”
Last week’s win over Wee Waa has given the Bulldogs a bit more confidence too, after something of a form slump.
“There is a real focus on this week for us to get the job done and finish second. “‘Narrabri are the dark horses.”
Gunnedah go into the game minus fullback Aaron Donnelly and Oli Neader.
Skipper Trent Hilton was also a 50-50 chance after straining a calf muscle in the first half of last Saturday’s win over Wee Waa.
Narrabri Blues coach John Rumsby has had the year from hell with injury and unavailability.
He would love to have Sean Russ, Tom Druce and Charles Tago available.
He also lost his son to another dislocated shoulder last Sunday.
On the credit side of the rugby league ledger he does have the talented Brando Tago back.
“He’s a raging bull,” Rumsby said.
“When he goes gees. He hit Phil Beaton last week and nearly knocked him into next year.
“While we’ve lost Jake we do have Adam suckling and Brendan Davey back. Brendan’s been away boxing for a fair bit of the season. He has a big night Saturday but then he’s right.
“Nothing much will change on the ladder from this game, but it’s a big day for us. Wee Waa and Gunnedah are our biggest and longest rivals. This games also shows us how well we are going after beating West. If we go all right it might mean we are going well enough to make a grand final.
“Norths are having a golden year. Had no injuries and have a good, solid squad. But if we could get two or three of those boys back then I think we’d give them a big shake.”