Sawty reboots season
WINNING every game is vital but Group 2 rugby league coaches are in total agreement the outcome of this weekend's round 10 matches are crucial to the top five structure.
Various combinations can upset the pecking order and while Sawtell captain-coach Steven Spencer may on paper have the easiest task against winless Bellingen, he's taking no chances.
"At training I've kept telling the boys not to treat this easy," he said.
"Also I want our defence to be tight so they don't score many points against us.
"It can be a bit hard with so many young blokes in the team to keep things under control all the time but so far this year, they have been the making of us.
"I think it's now five under-18s who have graduated to first grade and the experience they are getting is going to really pay off in years to come."
Spencer came back last week from injury and helped steer the Panthers out of a mini-slump into a major upset of Grafton Ghosts.
Asked if the team had trouble winning without him on the paddock, the coach surprised by answering in the affirmative.
"I've got to be honest and say that's a fair comment and there are reasons for it," he said.
"The win over Ghosts was the first since the last time I played and you see that pattern in just about any club.
"Our job as playing coaches is to be influential, by calling the plays and leading by example."
That attitude has come at a cost with Spencer - still a young man in comparison with many of his peers - copping plenty of punishment for his creative but hard running style.
Meanwhile, things are looking good for young star Chris Cook who suffered a serious vertebrae injury last Sunday.
"He's a lucky boy and while he's out for this season, his body will mend in time," Spencer added.
"The doctor said Cooky will be fine in the future.
"He'll eventually be able to get a clearance to play football again if that's what he wants when it heals."
SUNDAY'S GROUP 2 MATCHES
2.45pm: Coffs Harbour v South Grafton at Geoff King Motors Oval (Referee: Nathan Grace)
2.30pm: Macksville v Orara Valley at Alan Gillett Oval (Referee: Craig Craigie)
2.45pm: Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo v Sawtell at Bellingen Park (Referee: Lloyd Lynwood)
2.45pm: Grafton v Nambucca Heads at Frank McGuren Field (Referee: Ray Pettit)