PIRATES’ defence has been the rock of its three-straight premierships and needs to come to the fore at Gunnedah today.
There are no second chances.
Their premiership defence hinges on beating the Red Devils – at least that’s the first step – and they recognise that if they repeat their defensive effort of two weeks ago they’ll find themselves in trouble.
But it’s not just in defence the Pirates of old need to resurface.
The cornerstone of their game has been building the phases and pressure, and points off the back of that.
That has been a bit hit and miss this season.
It was a miss against the Red Devils last time and coaches Garry Walsh and Barry Everingham have been drilling into them the need for patience.
“We need to capitalise on the opportunities we generate,” Walsh said.
“We do that and we’re not in a position where we need to defend in the last couple of minutes to win.”
The prospect of going to Gunnedah doesn’t faze them.
Their track record is pretty good over there. They haven’t though always performed well in sudden death.
But Walsh doesn’t doubt if they get it right they can get the result they want.
“We’ve got 15 quality footballers who need to play to their potential,” he said.
“If they play to their potential they can win the game.”
They’ve shown what they can do when they do throughout the season, but will need to be better than they were two weeks ago.
“Obviously Gunnedah are in fine form. They’ve beaten all the right teams,” Walsh said.
“But I honestly believe we can play a lot better than what we did at home.”
He said it would take a collective team effort and reiterated the importance of what they do when they don’t have the ball.
“It comes down to the old adage that we’ve worked on for the last five years,” he said.
“It’s not what you do when you have the ball but what you do when you don’t.”
That’s where they have been faltering a bit, and they need to be “doers”, not “watchers”.
They also need to have more faith in their defence, and have spoken about that, especially marking up on the left-hand side.
The Red Devils exposed them there two weeks ago.
But they know they can do it – thay don’t need to look much past the first round at Gunnedah.
It was probably their best defensive effort of the season and if they can replicate that, they will go a long way towards winning.
“If we defend well we believe we’ve got the attack to put points on the board,” Walsh said.
The action will get underway at 10.30am, with Narrabri and Inverell clashing in the U16s.
The Blue Boars and Pirates then match up in the U18s, with Gunnedah and Inverell following in second grade.