Dubbo Kangaroos coach Dean Matthews has warned his side to focus on the right Bathurst-based team this weekend.
The third-placed Roos travel east to face CSU Bathurst in round 13 of the Blowes Clothing Cup, but with a contest against second-placed Bathurst Bulldogs a week later, it would be easy to look ahead.
And with Forbes nipping at their heels for the much sought-after top-three spot, the Roos know they can’t afford to slip up over the six-week period leading into the finals.
“Our focus has to be on CSU, not on Bathurst or even Emus a couple of weeks after that,” Matthews said.
“We’ve worked hard to get ourselves into the top three, now we have to work hard to stay there.
“That means that we have to win games against sides below us, sides we’re expected to beat, and that starts Saturday against CSU.
“They’re never easy to beat down there. They’re pretty unpredictable but they’re always a bit stronger at home.”
Aside from travelling to Bathurst in the middle of winter, the Roos are also facing somewhat of an injury crisis with captain Shaun McHugh (knee) and halfback Jock Brownhill (neck) not guaranteed to take their places in the starting 15.
But Matthews had little hesitation in naming a couple of up-and-coming youngsters to fill the void if need-be.
“Hamish Smith would probably come up and make his debut for us if Shaun is out, and if Jock isn’t available we have a fairly handy replacement there in Pat Berryman,” he said.
“We’ve been blessed in the club this year to have guys in second grade and Colts that can filter up into our first grade squad and do a job for us, so if those guys can’t play we have some very good replacements.
“We still haven’t settled on our side yet. We’ll train tonight (Thursday) and see what comes from that but we’ve got that depth at our disposal, which is good.”
The Roos head into Saturday’s contest on the back of a 62-19 win over Parkes last week that, surprisingly, has drawn criticism from both McHugh and Matthews this week.
“We need to be better than we were last week if we want to match the better teams, and we need to work on that this week,” Matthews said.
“We gave away too many penalties last week against Parkes, and they were probably one or two good footballers away from taking advantage of that.
“It’s frustrating watching from the sideline that we haven’t been able to put together a consistent 80-minute performance, so hopefully we can do that against CSU.”
Saturday’s match will kick-off at 3.15pm.