RETURNING players, positional changes and a new focus – that is what St Pat’s coach Kurt Hancock hopes will spark a charge up the Group 10 premier league ladder from his men.
Heading into this Saturday’s round 14 clash with Oberon, the Saints sit eighth on the ladder but are only four points outside the five.
That is not a huge difference to make up, but Hancock knows time is running out to do so. That is why he is placing such big importance on beating the Tigers.
“You could say that this is our last chance to get something rolling this week, we’re pretty desperate, so we’ll have to see how we go,” the coach said.
“If we’re going to get the ball rolling, we’ve got to do it this week and if we do get that win, well then you can build on that.
“We will take a relaxed and confident attitude into it. We need to play good footy, we can’t afford to sit back on our heels any more.”
One factor that gives Hancock confidence his men can replicate their 26-14 upset win over the Tigers in round five is the return of props Greg Behan and Jack Mackey, plus hooker Hudson White.
“We’ve probably got one of our best sides on paper so far this season this week,” Hancock said.
“To have Jack Mackey, Brady Cheshire and Greg Behan in the pack all at once will be very good. I hope that will give us a bit of punch up the middle, a bit of size.”
Having that pair back allows Hancock to move Derryn Clayton from the second row to the wing, but that is not the only positional change for the Saints.
Fullback Nathan Lawrence and five-eighth Garry Reilly will swap jobs for the clash against the Tigers.
“Nathan, he played most of his junior footy at five-eighth before moving to fullback. We’ll be looking for him to run the footy or give the ball early, it will get him into the game a bit more too … his best asset is when he’s on the ball and involved,” Hancock said.
“It should give Matt Ranse a bit more control in what he does at halfback and should give Garry Reilly a bit more freedom to float around and inject himself into the game.”
Those positional changes were trialled at training by the Saints, who have been buoyed by the bonding experience of attending last week’s annual blue and white ball.
Hancock knows the renewed focus from his players is a good sign ahead of what will no doubt be a test against the fourth-placed Tigers on their home turf.
“We had probably the hardest session we’ve had all year on Tuesday night, the mood and the vibe after was really great and that carried on to Thursday training,” Hancock said.
“The big question for us is playing for 80 minutes, we have been putting ourselves in positions to win games then falling away badly for 15 minutes. We can’t afford to do that.
“We’ve had a really good record at Bathurst against Oberon, but over at Oberon our record’s not so good. I remember when we won the comp, that year they beat us over there. They are missing one of their key players in Luke Braninghan … but if we both play to our potential, it will be a good game of footy.”
The Tigers will host St Pat’s at Oberon Sportsgound on Saturday, with premier league to kick off at 2.15pm.