SECOND place, a Blowes Clothing Cup club championship and the hope of a home grand final – all those factors will act as motivation for the Bathurst Bulldogs this Saturday.
With two rounds remaining before the finals, the Bulldogs players know they will be amongst the five squads left to battle it out for the premiership.
But coach Nathan Pearce wants his men to not only have the best possible chance of making grand final day, but as many of those big games on home turf as possible.
In order to do that, Bulldogs need to rise from fourth to second.
That will require beating third placed Forbes in Forbes this Saturday, the Platypi sitting one point ahead of the Bathurst outfit.
Given the second placed Dubbo Kangaroos are also just one point ahead of Bulldogs and will battle undefeated Orange Emus the same afternoon, there could be a big reshuffle on the ladder.
“This could derail our season really badly, there’s no doubt about that. If we don’t win this one, it will be pretty hard to come back psychological,” Pearce admitted.
“There were certainly no second chances for us last year and we fell one game short of a grand final and it could have easily gone our way. We’ve done it before last year and we know we can do it, but we need to put the stake in the ground and this is the week we will move forward from.
“If we get in that top two we are a chance of a home ground final and wouldn’t that be lovely?
“The other thing we’ve spoke about is that if we grab two of these games this weekend, we win the club championships a week out, so there’s a fair bit to play for.”
It was Forbes who ended Bulldogs’ premierships hopes last season, posting an 18-9 win in the preliminary final, while the Platypi were the first side this season to beat Bathurst. That was a 27-17 victory in round eight.
Trying to reverse that result on Forbes’ home soil will not be easy, so Pearce will be stressing to his players that they must be focused for the full 80 minutes.
“We’ve got to remind them what’s a stake and remind them we’re not going to do it with a half-paced game, we are absolutely going to have to be at our best,” he said.
Pearce and his coaching staff were faced with what he called “some really awkward selections” for Saturday’s match given Adam Plummer is the only unavailability.
“In our front row we’ve just dropped Joel Harper who’s been, without a shadow of a doubt, one of our best players this year. Chris Plunkett, who’s recently been the [NSW] Country loose head could barely get past him, so it’s a testament to the work the guys are doing and the depth we’ve got that someone who has been playing the quality of football Joel has is missing out,” he said.
“Dylan Carter as well, who has played pretty much every game in first grade, he’s been relegated.”
Kick-off in Forbes is at 3.15pm.