North Wagga head to Coleambally on Saturday with their reputation – as well as their finals hopes – on the line after coach Kirk Hamblin gave a scathing assessment of their effort against The Rock-Yerong Creek last week.
The Saints desperately need a win to stay in touch with the top five and they’ll make the toughest road trip in the league with bleeding ears after Hamblin questioned their desire.
“I was pretty upset to be honest with you,” Hamblin said.
“To go from the effort we put in against East Wagga… to turn up against The Rock and play one quarter. It didn’t seem like the desire was there.
“That’s taking nothing away from The Rock, they're a great side… but it was probably our second worst display of the year.
“When the going got tough, we threw the towel in a little bit.”
North Wagga are eight points outside the five and can't afford to drop another game.
“It’s do-or-die for us really,” Hamblin said.
“If we can get this win, we might be able to keep (our destiny) in our hands. But if we lose, we’d be relying on a lot of other things going right for us.”
Hamblin has looked to his predecessors for inspiration in the middle, naming former coaches Nathan Dowdle and brother Chad Hamblin to start on the ball against Coleambally.
“When everything’s against you and your back’s against the wall, you need your experienced players to step up and they’re our two most senior players, Chad and Dowds, so I thought I’d give them first crack at it,” he said.
It’s the third week in a row North Wagga are up against a top-three team. They’d set themselves the goal of winning at least one of those fixtures and now the pressure is on against a team that hasn’t lost since the 16th of April.
“They’re playing some great football,” Hamblin said.
“They’re a big-bodied team. We need to beat them with our run-and-carry – our wings, our back-flankers and our on-ballers need to get our run going and get our handball-receives up.”
It’s a crucial fortnight, with North Wagga taking on fifth-placed Marrar next.
The Bombers can put a dent in Temora’s finals hopes this week when they travel to Nixon Park.
They’ve been boosted by the return of Jackson Moye, who missed last week’s loss to East Wagga-Kooringal, while Temora have lost Jacob Turner and Rob Krause.
THE RUN HOME
Marrar (28pts): Temora (a), North Wagga (a), N. Jets (h), CSU (a), Barellan (h).
Temora (24pts): Marrar (h), CSU (a), North Wagga (h), EWK (a), TRYC (h)
North Wagga (20pts): Coleambally (a), Marrar (h), Temora (a), bye, CSU (h).