As Dubbo Rhinos coach Dave Stuart says, “no side has put it’s hand up” when it comes to nailing down a hold on fifth spot on the Blowes Clothing Cup ladder.
Orange Emus are running away in top spot while Forbes and Bathurst Bulldogs are close behind and the Dubbo Kangaroos are lurking in fourth.
But, with the first half of the season almost completed, fifth position and a place in the finals is still up for grabs.
The Rhinos are in the mix, currently sitting in seventh spot, eight points behind the fifth-placed Parkes, but Stuart’s troops face a huge test against the Forbes Platypi on Saturday.
One of the most difficult road trips in the competition, few sides have returned from Grinstead Oval with victory but Stuart is hopeful of a positive performance.
“We could still make that top five but there’s no point getting in of we can’t beat those sides above us,” he said.
“Even when playing the sides in the top four, you’d hope any team in the Blowes Cup on its day can get a win.”
Last weekend’s general bye came at the right time for a Rhinos side which has battled a number of injuries this season.
CJ Smyth and Tyrell Tehiko are set to return this weekend while Vili Manu and captain Jordan Davis have had extra time to recover from niggling injuries.
The fact his side is set to be the strongest it has been in some time boosts Stuart before the daunting road trip but he is well aware of the challenge.
Forbes has got back to its best in recent weeks, last season’s runners-up handed Bathurst Bulldogs its first loss of the season last round.
Leading prop Charlie French will be missing due to playing for NSW Country at Canberra but the Rhinos will still be big outsiders.
“They (Forbes) have been flying under the radar a bit but a lot of their performances indicate they’re heading along nicely and are starting to play like they did last year,” Stuart said.
“We’re going to have to improve on the Parkes game.”
The Rhinos were thumped 59-7 at the hands of the Boars but Stuart is adamant a better effort will be put in at Forbes.
The message the coach has been hammering into his players at training has all related to belief as he tries to make his side realise it can compete.
Stuart added he’s pleased his side has improved from last season but said that isn’t enough, with more victories needed from here on.
“We’ve won three game but all that work could be undone in the second half of the season.”
Kick off at Forbes on Saturday is at 3.15pm.