"YOU'D have to be looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses to say that all bets are off and that it's even stevens."
Bathurst Bulldogs coach Matt McRobert said his side are happy to wear the underdog tag going into this Saturday's Blowes Clothing Cup semi-final meeting against the unbeaten Orange Emus.
Normally in a grand final rematch you would give the nod of favouritism to the defending champions, especially in sudden death conditions, but the Emus' dominant 2020 season means the expectation is on them to progress to the decider.
So what's the solution for the visitors? No nonsense rugby.
It sounds like an obvious approach but it's one the Bulldogs haven't lived up to on several occasions this year, often being their own worst enemy and gifting their opponents too many chances to score through errors and penalties.
One game the Bulldogs did play a no nonsense brand of rugby this season was the latest game against the Emus.
Outside of their slow start, which gave Emus a 17-0 lead, the Bulldogs stuck to their plan to make the greens earn a 27-22 win.
That's the football McRobert is chasing from his team in the upcoming game, which has been moved from Endeavour Oval to Wade Park.
"We'll wear the undefeated tag since they're playing in their home city and they're unbeaten. But we'll approach this game like every other, which is about going out and giving your best and playing the game phase by phase," he said.
"We've not had as successful a year as last year, in a lot of ways, from personnel through to the way the competition has gone.
- READ MORE: Blowes Clothing Cup: Poor discipline and a red card sees Bathurst Bulldogs lose 22-21 to Forbes Platypi
- READ ALSO: Blowes Cup: Orange Emus hold off determined Bathurst Bulldogs to seal the minor premiership
- READ ALSO: Blowes Cup: Bathurst Bulldogs' matches against Dubbo Kangaroos cancelled due to snow
"We've been very close on a number of occasions where we've lost so we need to make sure we're taking that approach of just playing what's in front of us.
"Emus have been pushed a couple of times this year, even as late as last week against Dubbo. If you play for the full 80 minutes you can push them."
It's never ideal to be doing too much chopping and changing to a team each week - especially in the lead up to finals - but that's been a routine occurrence for the Bulldogs this year.
That trend continues going into this Saturday's semi-final, with Zac Taylor forced to sit out the game with a one-week suspension after his red card in last round's loss against Forbes Platypi.
"We obviously lose Zac to suspension. That's a real shame because he's been a shining light for us coming out of the colts team from last season," McRobert said.
"We've brought Harry Peacock back in and he's a very experienced and dynamic player. He's come back from a fairly substantial injury but has been playing consistently and was great last start against Forbes. He's hitting form at the right time.
"Alex Weal comes back into the team at number 8. He's just a player of incredible class and experience. It's great to have him back in the side.
"Riley Hanrahan comes back onto the wing after Ethan Ivory's injury against Forbes. Riley played the second half of that game and showed what he could do with a little space."
The first grade match at 3.15pm rounds out a huge day of Emus versus Bulldogs games.