The Wellington Cowboys are aiming to finish the first half of the Group 11 season with a win against the Macquarie Raiders on Saturday.
A win would return the Cowboys to second position, a major turnaround from 2018, where they finished second last.
Wellington player-coach Aidan Ryan said a win would give his team plenty of momentum heading into the second half of the season.
“It’s been a great start to the year and from what I’ve seen, the guys just keep getting better,” Ryan said.
“I’m really happy with what they’ve achieved so far. We started the season with only five players in first grade who were here last year so it has been a big rebuild.
“We’ve only had the two losses and I said all along my goal is to finish in the top three so I think we can do that.”
The Cowboys won’t underestimate a resurgent Raiders outfit, who are sitting in fifth position and will host Saturday’s game at Apex Oval.
“They’re in good form and this is a bit of a must win for them so we won’t take them lightly.
“They’ve got a good side with some young talent that we will have to watch.
“I think they’ll play a forwards game. They’ve got Colt Tairua in their side, who is a Group 11 player, but Jai Merritt has also been in good form for them in the halves.”
Both teams will be fresh after last weekend’s general bye, and Ryan took the opportunity to give his men a week off to keep them fresh.
However his intention was to work the players hard at training to get the ready for Saturday.
Maintaining momentum is just as important as league position for Ryan, because after the Raiders, his men will face a Nyngan Tigers team that has lured back Reece Goldsmith and there are reports Stewart Mills will also return.
“We don’t want to end the first round with a loss. We are looking to make a bit of a statement and we know Nyngan have some good players who have come back,” the coach said.
Injuries have been cruel to the Cowboys in the opening weeks of the season but in a bonus for the club, Brogan Black is back after a bad concussion against CYMS almost a month ago.
“We’re all glad that it wasn’t anything more serious but we gave Brogan some extra time off to make sure he was right,” Ryan said.
“He wanted to get back on the field so he will be raring to go this weekend.”
The news on Ryan isn’t so good, he hopes to find out soon about the severity of his knee injury but said it may rule him out for the season.
More will be known later in the week about EJ Fernando’s shoulder injury and when he will be able to return.