GUNNEDAH Bulldogs are underdogs for Sunday’s Group 4 Major Semi Final.
The Shane Rampling-coached side is yet to beat North Tamworth in a season where no one has come close to Brad McManus and his brilliant Bears.
And Rampling doesn’t mind handing out the praise the Bears are due.
“They are a good side, vastly experienced too,” he said yesterday.
“They are deserved favourites but, in saying that, there is no pressure on us.
“Norths have all the pressure on them, especially with the Clayton Cup in the back of their minds too.
“Hopefully we can go out and have a bit of fun against them on Sunday, play to our game plan and compete.
“We’d like no injuries too and maybe get some favourable 50/50 calls.”
Rampling has been in charge of a young, inexperienced side that has seven first grade players still out injured.
Two of them, Mark Sankey and Aaron Donnelly are in doubt for Sunday.
“Mark probably won’t play,” Rampling said of the backrower.
“We’ll give him another week and hopefully have him right for the final or grand final.
“Aaron Donnelly is probably 80-20 with his ankle.
“We’ll monitor him tonight (Thursday night) at training but leave a decision until Saturday morning.
“We train again then and will make a decision then with him.
“But we won’t risk him if he’s not right.”
The return of brilliant five-eighth DJ Smith in recent weeks has been a major bonus for the Bulldogs.
He can score a try, or lay one on.
But it’s all about the Bulldogs competing, finding a tougher defensive side to their game.
The return of skipper Trent Hilton to the back row is also a bonus for the side.
His attacking strength could also see him move out wider during the game.
Sunday’s major semi-finals start at 10.30am, with North Tamworth in three of the four grades.
Their ladies’ League Tag side plays Oxley Diggers and second grade tackles Quirindi-West Lions.
The Under 18 clash is between Gunnedah and Narrabri, the winner going to the grand final and the loser to play a North Tamworth side which will have many of the Farrer side playing in next Wednesday’s University Shield Final at Kogarah Oval in Sydney backing up.