TWO weeks with no football then taking on one of the best performed teams in the Peter McDonald Premiership - that's the 'bloody pain' currently facing Bathurst Panthers coach Jake Betts.
In an attempt to be as fair to every club in the new premiership which combines Group 10 and Group 11 sides, more than 60 draft draws were done before one was finally settled upon.
Though many club requests were accommodated, Bathurst Panthers was the only outfit left with byes on consecutive weekends.
Every club save Panthers has at least three games in between its byes.
Given the way the season has unfolded, the team Panthers will face after those two byes is a Mudgee Dragons outfit which currently sits on top of the Group 10 pool ladder.
"It's a bloody pain in the arse, the reserve grade boys have got Blayney this weekend so we've got a bye with that, then we've got a general club bye next week," Betts said.
"So that's two in a row and then we lead into Mudgee, so it isn't ideal."
Unlike Panthers who will have a bye for the first time this weekend, the Dragons have already sat theirs out in rounds three and seven.
Cowra is the only other Group 10 based side that has sat out two byes (rounds five and nine), while from the Group 11 pool, Forbes, Parkes and Wellington have already ticked off their byes.
Preparing his men for a big clash - it will also be played at Mudgee's Glen Willow Stadium - after a fortnight off will be a big test for Betts in his maiden season as coach.
But it's a challenge he knows he has to deal with so he is trying to look at the positives.
"We definitely would've liked to play a game before that, but I guess we've got a few of the boys with a few little niggling injuries, so in that respect it will be good," he said.
"We would've liked one lead up game before Mudgee, it's hard because we're not getting that game fitness. But that's how it is, we'll be right.
"We knew we had it, I guess I'd prefer to have it those two days than the two weeks leading into the finals.
"After that we have four weeks and we roll straight into it, so we'll be getting consistent footy."
Betts' plan is to take training easier this week then up the intensity next week.
He knows there are areas of his side's game that need improving as finals loom, a number of which were exposed in the 40-26 loss to Forbes last Saturday.
But Betts also feels that loss will act as a motivator for his side.
"After the game obviously the boys were a bit upset, but looking back on it we definitely didn't play our best brand of footy," Betts said.
"I think we needed that to be honest, it was good to get a loss and get us back into the mindset that we have to work hard to do this.
"They're a very quality side, so it was good to get a gauge on that. We've got to improve in a lot of areas, but we'll be right."
Under the finals format, which was revealed last week, the top four from each pool will qualify.
While this means it might not necessarily be the eight sides with the best records in 2022 left vying for the premiership, it doesn't trouble Betts.
If his side, which currently sits in third, can win each of its remaining games against Mudgee (first Group 10 pool), Dubbo Macquarie (fourth Group 11 pool), Orange CYMS (second Group 10 pool) and Lithgow Workies (seventh Group 10 pool) they will be part of the finals series.
"There's only five points between first and fourth in Group 10, so it's pretty close, and a lot of those top four teams play off heading into the finals. We've got Mudgee and CYMS, so that will give us a good gauge of where we're going to be sitting," he said.
"We've just got to worry about our job. It's good not to be worrying about other results, if we are winning our games we'll be sweet."
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