BATHURST Bushrangers Outlaws have slipped outside of the Central West AFL top two for the first time this season but they have one chance to get back.
It won’t be an easy task for the Outlaws as they prepare to face the team who leapt over them into second spot, Orange Tigers, and on their home turf at Bloomfield Oval, to boot.
A first-time loss to cross city rivals Bathurst Giants saw the Outlaws drop the valuable top two spot last Saturday.
If there’s a silver lining to the loss for Outlaws co-coach Matt Archer it’s that his side have become more aware of where they must lift their game.
“We’re still confident in our ability. We were disappointed last week not so much with the result but more with the way we went about the game,” he said.
“We need to be putting in a better effort. We’ve probably taken a step back but we’re confident we can get ourselves back to the level we were playing before.
“We shied away from our responsibilities, and that’s something that started from the top and fed down.
“We went away from what we wanted to do, and we spent too long trying to kick the ball down the line … and trying to clear it from the half-back line. We’ve got to focus on running more with the ball and getting back on top in the midfield.”
There’s no better chance for the Outlaws to prove they can get back into top gear than by beating a red-hot Tigers squad.
The Tigers are on a four game winning streak and their latest loss was by a single point to the Outlaws’ club mates, Rebels, in a thriller at Bloomfield Oval.
In the match prior to that, Outlaws took a dominant 62-point win over the Tigers.
Orange boast a four-point lead over the Bushrangers.
A superior percentage for the Outlaws means that a win of any margin over the Tigers guarantees them second spot, and a finish directly behind minor premiers Rebels.
“If we win, we’re second. If we lose, we’re third. It’s as simple as that,” Archer said.
“This is going to be a very good game because Tigers have probably been the form team of the last month, and no-one’s been able to get close to them. They tend to play pretty well at home too.
“Their midfield is always strong, and they’ve had Josh Bubnich back since last month. But even before he was back they were still tough through the middle with guys like Brent Tucker, Mitch McKenna and Simon Kay as ruckman.
“If you can’t nullify those guys in the middle then you won’t be a chance.”
Tigers host Outlaws in the final round of the regular season from 2.30pm Saturday.