The Macquarie Raiders are all but guaranteed to be playing in the Group 11 elimination semi-final after this weekend’s final round of the regular season, but coach Dylan Hill wants to see his side playing much deeper into August and September.
After an up-and-down year the Raiders head into the final round knowing only a colossal loss at Wellington, coupled with a massive Nynagn win over CYMS, would see them miss finals.
With that being hugely unlikely, Hill wants to see his side step at Kennard Park on Sunday before an all-or-nothing clash with Forbes in week one of the finals.
“I don’t want our season to end early,” Hill said.
“I still believe we’ve got a lot to offer and before (loss to) CYMS last weekend we had really only started hitting our straps.
“We need to play the full 80 minutes and compete. I want to win because it’s coming into that do-or-die time.”
While Hill wants a win, the coach also said there’s no road trip in the competition more difficult than the one his side makes this weekend.
A rejuvenated Wellington side has had a huge amount of support this year and the final regular season game of the season at Kennard Park is expected to draw in a huge number of fans.
The Cowboys sit second and only a win will make that spot certain before finals.
“Wellington in Wellington is probably the toughest game you can have,” Hill said.
“It’s about not buying into the emotion of playing there, we’ve got to focus on the task in front of us.”
The task the Raiders face is shutting down one of the most potent attacking forces in the western area.
Despite a number of injuries this year, the Cowboys still posses a dangerous lineup and Hill singled out stand-in captain Justin Toomey-White, halfback AJ Davis and livewire fullback Will Lousick as the ones his side needs to stop.
“That’s the attacking spine so shutting them down would be ideal,” he said.
The Raiders failed to shut down CYMS at all last weekend and slumped to a 56-0 loss, but the return of a number of key players for this weekend’s game has boosted the confidence.
Hill has been out of town this week but said all reports from training were hugely positive and the side going to Wellington will be one close to full-strength.
“At times (last weekend) we looked like a decent footy side but we were missing a bit of a spark with key players missing,” Hill said, referring mainly to fullback Sam Thorpe, the experienced Chris Daley and former Cowboy, Lewis Stanley.
“They’ll offer something in attack and it’s Lewis’ homecoming so I expect a big game from him.
“You could really tell we missed him last weekend. He’s got an excellent kicking game and he directs the pack around.”