Panthers primed for Roosters
"HEY, you don't mind putting the pressure on me," was the quip from Nambucca Heads captain coach Geoff Batten when told the Panther-Rooster clash had been assigned top billing this weekend.
The veteran skipper had better get used to it.
Despite the shock loss to Macleay Valley two weeks ago, the vibe from Roostertown remains solid.
Even better than a couple of seasons back when being stripped of competition points was the only thing that stopped the club creating havoc in the playoffs.
"Don't remind me of losing points," Batten groaned, referring to a couple of points still swinging in the breeze from round one.
"The young blokes don't worry about these things but the older ones like Dean Urquhart and myself get a bit upset."
With the Easter break to get over the loss to the Mustangs, Batten has kept it simple.
"Things have really picked up at training," he said.
"All I do is get in the ear of the new kids and tell them rewards don't come if you don't work for them."
Meanwhile, the Sawtell camp are treating this game as a fresh start to the competition.
"The only advantage Nambucca have is they've had one more game than us," captain coach Craig Wallace said after thinking for a moment.
"Plenty of hard work at training, plenty of ball work - that's what I've done to keep my boys fresh."
Both bosses know today's rep matches will have some effect with the Heads most at risk.
Batten has Faron Greenup-Davis on standby for Willy Baker and won't hesitate to wrap his star playmaker in cotton wool for a bigger payday down the track if there's any sign of wear and tear from Wingham.
Fortunately for Wallace, he doesn't have those kind of worries.
When he (Wallace), Damien Irvine and Nathan Davies were overlooked by rep selectors, it left them bursting out of their skins for tomorrow.
"Any bruises from the Orara game have had time to heal and everybody's 100 per cent," he promised.
"I want these blokes hungry when they run out and to stay that way."
One of the many interesting facets will be the clash of former Bellingen team mates who till a few weeks ago would never have imagined themselves running onto Rex Hardaker Oval tomorrow.
Ian Watson and Matt Morris (Panthers) marking up on the Fensom brothers (Roosters) could be more than worth the $6 cover charge.