Newcastle Rugby League: Macquarie Scorpions claim underdog status before top-of-the-table clash with Western Suburbs at Harker Oval
FORM: Macquarie overcame South Newcastle in a grand final replay last weekend. Picture: Max Mason-HubersMacquarie coach Adam Bettridge can barelyremember winning a game at Harker Oval and has claimed “underdog” status heading into Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Newcastle Rugby League leaders Western Suburbs.
Bettridge said the Scorpions “weren’t expected to win” the round 12 fixture despite being the only team to knock off the high-flying Rosellas in 2017 courtesy of an 18-14 victory at Toronto on May 13.
“That was a long time ago now and Wests are tough to beat there,” Bettridge said.
“They’ve made Harker Oval into a bit of a fortress and it’s a hard place to go and win. I can’t remember winning a game there as coach.
“We know we’re not expected to win and we’ll go in as underdogs.
“Thankfully we have the same side again this week.”
Macquarie, who have named afull strength squad for the encounter and sit just two points below Wests on the ladder, last defeated the Rosellas at the New Lambton venue in 2012.
Wests are undefeated in six starts at home this year anddropped just two of 17 games on Hobart Road the previous two seasons.
The Rosellas welcome back Newcastle under-23 representative Mao Uta to start at centre whileWarren Schillings and Peter Mannion stayat prop and lock respectively after solid performances in last weekend’s catch-up match.
Elsewhere on Sunday and just two competition points separate fourth-placedLakes, who have named Cody Robbins at fullback in front of Jamie Ghoulmieh, and fifth-placed South Newcastle, who lose winger Ofa Manuofetoa to Knights under 20s,at Cahill Oval.
Earlier on Saturday and Nick Lawrence enjoys his first start at hooker for the Goannas while Connor Kirkwood replaces Jake McNamara (hip flexor) in the halves when hosting third-placed Central Newcastle at Cessnock Sportsground. Butcher Boys fullback Jake Maizen and captain Ethan Cooke were to undergo fitness tests at training on Friday night to determine if they would play.
And in what shapes as the battle for the wooden spoon between Maitland and Kurri Kurri at Coronation Oval on Saturday thePickers will have the services of former English Super League fullback Curtis Naughton, who was named 18thman for Knights reserve grade, while Brock Gilmour remains at hooker for the Bulldogs with Terence Seu Seu (knee) sidelined for up to a month.
Meanwhile referee Graham Stair will notch up his 400thfirst grade game in the Newcastle competition 25 years after making his debut. He will be in charge of the Wests versus Macquarie fixture at New Lambton on Sunday.
LADDER: Wests20, Macquarie 18, Central 14, Lakes 10, Souths, Cessnock 8, Maitland, Kurri 4.