Gunnnedah coach Jason Waerea has said it is “very important” the Red Devils rebound immediately from a last-start loss to Scone by beating Narrabri at home on Saturday.
Waerea said the closeness of the competition meant that Gunnedah could ill afford back-to-back losses.
He said: “You can throw a blanket over three, four, five and six [on the ladder] at the moment. Every win is critical. This group is most susceptible to missing out on a top-four finish if they fall to each other.”
Five points separate third-placed Barraba-Gwydir and sixth-placed Narrabri. Gunnedah is in fourth place, two point behind Barraba-Gwydir.
The Red Devils had a bye last round and lost 31-15 away to Scone two weeks ago. Waerea said Gunnedah “put too much pressure” on themselves against Scone.
He said: “We endured more penalties than any other game. And discipline has been a major focus [for us] this year and we couldn’t maintain it against Scone and fell into the niggle on the day.”
But Waerea insisted that Gunnedah would be “better for the loss”.
He said Matt Pardesi had returned to “strengthen” the pack against Narrabri.
But he said the backline would be missing DJ Morrison and Brad Swaine, while Joe Hinchey had returned from injury and Jono Maddon would “slide into the midfield”.
He described Narrabri as a “young, enthusiastic team that will improve as the year develops”.
“They are very similar to us,” he added. “’They are keen to get wide and are capable of getting direct and going forward if required.”