Wagga Brothers might be winless through the first eight rounds of the Group 9 competition but the Tumut Blues will be treating the visiting side with the upmost respect when they do battle Twickenham on Saturday.
According to co-coach Zac Masters, Tumut will play their strongest side possible, with the hope they can work on combinations and aim to keep the same team on the paddock.
“Like I said to the boys this week, we haven’t really had a chance to play our full-strength side this year, so we need time playing together and building those combinations,” Masters said.
A win over Brothers is important as Masters believed the Blues were prone to letting their guard down when facing teams lower on the competition ladder.
“That’s been one of our biggest challenge this year and over the last three or four years,” Masters said.
“We play well against teams we need to, and against lesser sides, we can switch off.
“That’s mine and Lachie’s (Lachlan Bristow) job this week, we need to get the boys to switch on, we will prepare the exact same way and play as if we were playing one of those top sides.”
Jed Pearce is another week away from returning from a knee injury, Josh Webb is facing another month on the sideline after dislocating his shoulder against Temora, while there is an injury cloud surrounding Lewis Arragon who continues to battle an ankle injury, so Tumut will again have to test their depth.
“At the moment, Lewis Arragon is under an injury cloud, and he waiting to see how he goes,” Masters said.
“With Jed, we are hoping to have him back next week against Gundagai, and Josh will probably need a few weeks, so we will call on a few younger blokes to step up.”
In somewhat of a surprise, co-coach Lachlan Bristow will make an early return to the paddock, with the hooker getting over a knee complaint.
“I thought he would have another week off, but he was convinced he was playing,” Masters said.
“He got through training on Tuesday, he didn’t do a whole lot, but did straight line running and looks ready to go – we will see how he goes on Friday.”
Tumut have only named Cam Dowling on the bench, while it is expected the likes of Jack Dean, Jordy Maher, Billy Bridgeman, Jack Hillier, Mal Aitken and Brodie Mirtschin will all be pushing for the remaining three positions.
“We have a few young boys in the running and a few Reggies boys keen to step up,” Masters said.
“We have been lucky all year and the boys have really stepped up, and it’s not often we have had this depth, so we are blessed in that department.”
Masters does have one eye on their round 10 match against the Gundagai Tigers, and while a strong team will face Brothers, he hopes the club’s injury crisis is over.
“Touch wood we get through this game without any injuries and we can be full strength for that second Maher Cup clash against Gundagai,” Masters said.
Saturday and Sunday’s round nine matches will signal the end to the first half of the Group 9 season and there are entertaining fixtures, with Young hosting Southcity at Alfred Oval, Gundagai visiting Temora at Nixon Park and Albury and Kangaroos doing battle on the border at Greenfield Park.
Blues line-up: 1. Mitch Ivill, 2. Fetongi Tuinauvai, 3. Brayden Draber, 4. Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai, 5. Thomas Hickson, 6. Jacob Toppin, 7. Jordy Anderson, 8. Zac Masters, 9. Lachlan Bristow, 10. Matthew Byatt, 11. Tommy Jeffery, 12. Ron Leapai, 13. Adam Pearce, 16. Cam Dowling.