Doug Biffin is poised for his first start for Pirates since the corresponding game in the first round at Inverell on Saturday, but he won’t be packing down in the forwards.
Rather, with Andrew Mepham unavailable, coach Mat Kelly has opted to play Biffin at inside centre.
Not his customary position, he has played there before, and Kelly is confident he can do the job as they look to rebound from their last round loss to Narrabri.
Part of his thinking was that it was “less disruption for everyone else”, but he also wanted a similarly bigger body in the midfield.
“Getting over the advantage line was a big part. I don’t think we did that enough last week,” Kelly said.
On the comeback trail from a knee injury, which he incidentally picked up against the Highlanders, Biffin has provided some good impact off the bench in recent weeks and will also hopefully stiffen the midfield defence.
It was one of the concerning aspects of the the Blue Boars’ performance.
“It was well-noted we are susceptible outwide,” Kelly said.
The Blue Boars aren’t the only side to show that and with the finals looming, he knows they have to get that right.
It doesn’t just fall on those outwide though, as a 15 they are accountable, he said.
“The success we’ve had the last couple of years has been built on our defence,” he said.
Not surprisingly defence has occupied a lot of their focus at training this week.
The Highlanders will be a good gauge as to whether or not they have ironed out the kinks. Like the Blue Boars they have some quick backs and like to throw the ball around.
Another major focus will be playing for the 80 minutes.
Last week they “turned off” and they paid the price with the Blue Boars pegging back a 22 point deficit.
Jack Shelton returns in the second row while Lewyn Rapana will partner Biffin in the centres after getting through his first game back from a hamstring injury last week.
In the round’s other fixtures Scone are home to Walcha, Gunnedah host Barraba/Gwydir and the Blue Boars welcome Quirindi.
Round 17 teams
Pirates: 1 Barton Leach, 2 Tim Collins, 3 Ben Goodman, 4 Jack Shelton,5 Andrew Wynne, 6 Chad Lambert, 7 Sam Collins, 8 Conrad Starr, 9 Jackson Sharpe, 10 Andrew Moodie, 11 Sam Collett, 12 Douglas Biffin, 13 Lewyn Rapana, 14 Sam Bowden, 15 James Trappel.
Quirindi: 1 James Davison, 2 Gordon McNeil, 3 Tom McKenzie, 4 Harrison Frear, 5 Angus Clift, 6 Jamie Morris, 7 Will Elsley, 8 Andrew McLeod, 9 Toby Saunders, 10 Elliott Tourle, 11 Wiaan Oosthuizen, 12 Tom Grant, 13 James Clift, 14 Harry Wilson, 15 Alec Olsen.
Walcha: 1 Ross Fletcher, 2 Dave Healey, 3 Mike Whitton, 4 Sione Kamoto, 5 Sandy Cameron, 6 Henry King, 7 Thor Crombie, 8 Will Fletcher, 9 Angus Mactavish, 10 Simon Newton, 11 Dom Bower, 12 Pat Keen, 13 Ed Cordingley, 14 Richard Young, 15 Harry Locke.
Narrabri: 1 Will Turner, 2 Scott Dale, 3 Beau Brummell, 4 Sam Kahl, 5 Daniel Kahl, 6 Pat Brummell, 7 Matt McDonnell, 8 Mitch Wheaton, 9 Matthew Schwager, 10 Jydon Hill, 11 Will Morley, 12 Jake Packer, 13 James Albert, 14 Matt Nott, 15 Linton Grumley.