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No backing down

By MITCHELL DALE

GIMBISI Valley will have to deal with around 600kg of fired-up Sawtell forwards if they make good on pre-season promises of rough-house tactics in tomorrow's Group 2 clash at Rex Hardaker Oval.

Sawtell captain-coach Craig Wallace has warned that his sizeable and experienced pack won't take a backward step in what is shaping as a fiery encounter to kick-start the season.

But Wallace says his side will only retaliate within the boundaries of the law book.

"If they dish it up, they dish it up; it won't worry us," Wallace said yesterday.

"We don't have to play dirty to win.

"We'll play tough and hard without any rubbish."

The bad blood between the two clubs stems back to last year's preliminary final between Sawtell and Macksville at Rex Hardaker Oval, which was marred by ugly crowd fights after full-time.

"Apparently they reckon there is some unfinished business there and it also erupted a bit when we played them in the sevens.

"As we walked off, there was a bit of talk (from Warriors) about it not being over yet and that they would get us in round one.

"We're going out there to play football, whether they are or not."

Wallace said his side will not be intimidated.

"We have a lot of experience and a lot of old heads in the side," he says.

"It will take a fair bit to intimidate us.

"We've probably got about a 600kg-pack and they will feel the full brunt of it.

"We won't be holding back, but we need to be disciplined and smart."

The Panthers have been forced to make two late changes to their starting line-up for round one.

Talented half Brendan Hope has been relegated to reserve grade after missing training, while forward Neal McCarthy will be sidelined for a few weeks after injuring his finger in a work accident.

Regular halfback Kris Watson will also miss the game due to work commitments, with assistant coach Greg Shuttleworth to feed the scrums tomorrow.