FOR the first time this season Narrabri coach John Rumsby was able to name his squad at training on Wednesday night instead of Friday as the Blues put their injury woes behind them for tomorrow’s minor semi-final against Wests Lions at Scully Park.
At one stage the Blues almost had a full first grade side watching from the sideline but tomorrow they also have the benefit of their U18s finishing second.
With a week off before the major semi against Uralla, the juniors are available to play in the top grade.
“Naming the squad early has been part of a good preparation and given us some confidence,” Rumsby said.
Another boost to their confidence was West’s loss at the hands of second-last Wee Waa last weekend.
“We had a very ugly win last week but were happy to take it,” Rumsby said.
“The 50-20 point win in the last round is also giving us a bit of confidence.”
Brandon Tago will run on after coming off last week with a hamstring twinge.
The prop scored three tries before that and can be devastating when fit.
Rumsby has had the squad looking at playing a complete game and also playing with patience to get over the premiers.
“We tackle well for four and run well for four but just drop off on the last two in attack and defence,” Rumsby said.
“At times we let teams dominate us for five or six-minute periods and they pile points on.”
Holding the ball was an issue for the Blues last weekend.
They won’t be able to afford turnovers like that against a side with a much better attack and includes players like electric winger Dylan Lake.
Rumsby believes the danger also lies in West captain coach Chris Hunt at five-eighth, and lock Phil Beaton.
“I have heard Hunt might have a bit of an injury but we will watch him,” Rumsby said.
“Phil Beaton plays like a bit of a hooker and is still very handy around the ruck.”
On Narrabri’s side is the brilliant left-side combination of Justin Knight and Michael Skillicorn in the backs.
Skillicorn has picked up almost 20 tries this season, with Knight often playing a hand.
Rumsby wants Knight and the side to exercise patience this week.
“Hold on to territory instead of trying to score off every set,” Rumsby said.
“Whoever holds on to the ball will win.”
“There have been some lean years at Narrabri and now we are in a semi with a side we have beaten once this year.”
West has won the flag for the past five seasons straight but is up against it this season, with crosstown rival North cruising to a perfect home and away season.
The Bears will play Gunnedah in the major semi next week.
Gunnedah will play Oxley Diggers in reserve grade this Sunday with North playing West in the U18s and Gunnedah clashing with Wee Waa in the league tag.
Wests will also play Kootingal in the JRL semi-final clash, kicking the day off at 9.30am.