“It’s the closest derby in 10 years.”
The battle for the Melville Cup is back this weekend with the Dubbo Kangaroos taking on the Dubbo Rhinos in front of what is expected to be a bumper crowd under lights at No. 1 Oval.
It’s not just the atmosphere which will ensure the Blowes Clothing Cup derby being a real spectacle. The Roos and the ever-improving Rhinos have both won three from five so far this season and sit fifth and sixth respectively.
Add into the fact the Roos are motivated after giving throwing away a half time lead in last weekend’s loss to Bathurst Bulldogs and it has all the makings of one of the games of the season.
“If you look at the table they’re on the same amount of wins as us, there’s just a couple of bonus points separating us so it’s the closest derby in 10 years,” Roos coach Dean Matthews said, before speaking about the loss to Bulldogs.
“They scored 17 points while they were a man down so that wasn’t pleasing but we’re taking positives from that game. We controlled the first 40 minutes but it showed footy is an 80 minutes game.
“But we’re not dwelling on that. We’re looking forward to Rhinos and how we can get four points and hopefully we’ve learnt from last game and can improve.”
Matthews, and his off-siders Mark Stanford and Rob Bond, are still toying with the lineup in search of what works best, partly due to a number of new faces and also because of a number of injuries and unavailabilities so far this season.
The likes of Eli Kinscher, Tom Sheridan, Jack Finch, Mark Hubbard and Shaun McHugh have only played one or even no games so far this season.
“We’ve made some changes this weekend but nothing huge,” Matthews said, with skipper Brad Pugh returning to the forwards, Viliame Turuva moving from the centres to flyhalf and Sione Lolohea switching to inside centre.
“Pughy has moved back to the forwards and even in training Vili likes to jump in and do a bit and we’ve got confidence in the guys from one to 25.
“If they want to have a go at the spot and say they can do it then we’ll back them 100 percent.”
While keen to have a full compliment of players at his disposal, Matthews has still been delighted by the players currently in the lineup.
The likes of former fringe player Reuben Williams and Monty Hicks have been vital in the opening rounds while Jock Brownhill moved to Dubbo as an unknown and has made the number nine jersey his own.
Billy Sing and Turuva have also slipped in seamlessly after making the move from league, meaning there are a stack of options for the Roos.
“It’s like a big jigsaw but it’s a good headache to have,” Matthews said.
Kick-off is 6.15pm.