Western Suburbs can take a giant step towards securing a top four spot in the Intrust Super Premiership competition this Sunday when they take on Mounties.
Coming off a disappointing last start defeat to the Penrith Panthers that saw the young Magpies side fade away in the second half, Brett Hodgson’s men will be eager to bounce back against a Mounties side that currently sits second on the ladder with just three games remaining in the regular season.
With a win, Mounties will all but book themselves a top four finish and resign the Magpies to finishing fifth or lower, but a victory for the visitors will keep their hopes at the second-chance spot alive.
These two sides met just five weeks earlier in what was, incredibly, Western Suburbs’ final home game of the year at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Despite boasting a high-profile forward pack and a number of dangerous outside backs, the Magpies were unable to stop Mounties getting a roll on throughout the second half with Craig Garvey in particular starring in an upset 28-8 win for the visitors. Since that game, however, Mounties have had a mixed run of form with a 22-14 win over the lowly Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles followed by losses to the North Sydney Bears and Newcastle Knights.
Western Suburbs named a number of Jersey Flegg-eligible players for their recent defeat to Penrith and while they held their own for the first half, they simply couldn’t match the class and experience of the Panthers in the second half — held scoreless for the second stanza as the home side piled on the points. The young players in particular will be better for the run, and Coach Hodgson has shown great faith in them by naming a similarly young side again this weekend with six players in the team aged 20 or under.
Injuries to the likes of Tuimoala Lolohea, Tim Grant, Oliver Clark and Watson Heleta has hurt the Magpies in recent weeks while several first-grade players being out of action has forced a number of players to step up in to the top squad. However, this week appears to be the key with as many as five players potentially back on deck for next week’s game against the Wyong Roos at Morry Breen Oval on the Central Coast.
If they can get through Sunday’s game with the two points and make amends for their loss earlier in the year to Mounties, Wests will be in a great position to claim a top four spot ahead of the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership finals series — a feat that will certainly be deserved after their progress so far this season.