Group 4 First Division: North Tamworth and Collegian clash

IMPACT PLAYER: Bears captain Scott Blanch will be looking to repeat his dominate performance against the Warriors in May.
IMPACT PLAYER: Bears captain Scott Blanch will be looking to repeat his dominate performance against the Warriors in May.

When North Tamworth and Collegian have met there has been one certainty – and, as local league followers would know, it is not flattering for the Warriors.

Collegian coach Mick Schmiedel recently said that in the four seasons the Warriors had been in the competition, the only team they had not been competitive against at any stage was Norths.

So given the gulf between Norths – who are increasingly looking menacing as their premiership defence gains momentum – and Collegian, you would think their round seven clash at Jack Woolaston Oval on Sunday would be about as appealing as watching Anthony Joshua fight Stevie Wonder.

But that is not the case.

After enduring a procession of beatings, before winning the battle of the strugglers with a 42-38 win over Wee Waa in round five, Collegian almost engineered the upset of the year in a 34-28 loss to high-flying Gunnedah the following week.

Bears coach Brad McManus speaks after his side's recent win over Narrabri.

That match, which was decided by a late try, came before the long weekend, with Schmiedel left lamenting the potential loss of momentum.

He had talked about the Warriors’ desire to put in a creditable performance against Norths.

“We’re still a long way off winning competitions or even making semi-finals,” he said.

“Our aim at the moment, as it has been the last three years, is to try and be competitive with all teams in the competition. In four years the only team we haven’t been competitive with is North Tamworth.

“That’s the aim at the moment – to give them a good competitive game.”

That probably won’t happen on Sunday.

Schmiedel believes that teams sometimes don’t show up against the Warriors, having taken them lightly.

But that obviously has not applied to Norths.

If a measure of a team is how well they perform against the strongest and the weakest competition, the Bears are a very good bush side.

Their coach, Brad McManus, said “that’s what we do” when reminded about Norths’ ruthlessness against Collegian.

“It doesn’t matter who we play against,” he said.

“We sort of go out as if we’re going to play a top team and go from there … that’s what we work on.

“It goes to show the character of the team I’m coaching. They’re all good footballers and they’re competitive.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing.

“They always want to go out and do the best job they can.”

The Bears will take on Collegian without lock Nick Dobson, who is out for the season after “busting” his wrist in Norths’ last-start 40-6 defeat of Narrabri.

Bears prop Bill Jeffrey injured his knee against the Blues and his also out this round.

“We had a few casualties come out of that game,” McManus said. “I’m not sure how long Bill will be out yet.”

In other Group 4 First Division games on Sunday, Narrabri host South West and Wee Waa travel to Gunnedah.