BATHURST Bulldogs coach Dean Oxley is hopeful his Blue Bulls representatives can bring back their Caldwell Cup-winning form for a huge Blowes Clothing Cup clash against defending champions Orange Emus this Saturday.
While most of the Bulldogs squad enjoyed the long weekend away from the field Peter Fitzsimmons, Justin Mobbs, Alex Weal, Joe Nash and Matt Trapp were helping the Blue Bulls claim the country title at Tamworth.
If those players are to help the unbeaten Bulldogs keep their 2019 streak alive then they (minus an absent Weal) will have to end a nine-year winless run at Endeavour Oval while backing up from some strenuous rugby.
"They've had a wonderful experience but they're feeling it a bit after two very hard games," Oxley said.
"That Country game was another level up so our players who were in that have had a high standard, difficult, intense game under their belts which will only help them more towards the back end of the season.
"Justin Mobbs, who is continuing his transition from the backs to the forwards, played great in Tamworth. Peter Fitzsimmons had another wonderful game and is no doubt in the frame for Country selection.
"Matt Trapp was a late call up due to injury and he was great, while Joe Nash is another player who I'd be surprised not to see in Country after his two games.
"We've had the whole week to recover for the Emus game and that's money in the bank for us."
Emus have dominated the Bulldogs on home turf in every fixture since mid-2010.
Bulldogs may have got the better of Emus at Ashwood Park last month, winning 21-15, but for Oxley and his team a win at Endeavour would be a far bigger achievement.
"This is one of our goals which is very significant. Emus are the benchmark. While we've had a great start, we're playing the defending premiers at their home so it doesn't get any harder than that," Oxley said.
"We came from behind to beat them at Bathurst but we're hoping to get the job done up there because that's what we're going to have to do if we're going to win any titles."
Keep up to date with the latest sports news by clicking here.
Bulldogs have been forced to make a stack of changes following their win over the Cowra Eagles a fortnight ago.
Weal's absence means Bulldogs captain Fitzsimmons will drop back from hooker to number 8.
James Woolmington comes back into the starting side following an injury to Brenton Gibson, which sadly prevented the latter from taking part in Central West's Caldwell Cup campaign.
Former Blue Bulls representative Phil Tonkin has been named to start in the centres after a long absence from first grade, taking the place of an injured Will Oldham.
"I coached him a few years ago when he was playing for Central West and I've got a lot of confidence in his ability," Oxley said of Tonkin.
"He'll play at 12 and will be a calming influence out there and is a very skilful footballer. He's been involved with our program throughout the year."
Play starts 3.15pm.