Testing times ahead for South Newcastle Lions in Newcastle Rugby League

WRAPPED UP: South Newcastle fullback Jared Edwards. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.Within the space of four weeksSouth Newcastle hosttitle holders Lakes followed by split matches against jointcompetition leaders Wests.

For many these three encounterswould be an unwanted challenge, especially over a month mid-season, but the fourth-placed Lions are simply taking it in their stride despite having won just two of their last five outings.

“We need to lift another gear against Lakes this weekend and then we have Wests, Central and Wests again,” Souths captain-coach Todd Hurrell said.“Thingis though,we just have to take every week as it comes. You can look at the next month, or in blocks, but if you look too far ahead you miss this game, which is right in front of you.”

The Lions upcoming fixture is against the Seagulls at Townson Oval as part of a Newcastle Rugby League top-four double header on Sunday with Macquarie tackling Wests at Peacock Field on the same afternoon. Just two competition points separate the quartet of premiership contenders, which could swing around completelydepending on round 10 results. Lakes and Wests (12) are narrowly ahead of Macquarie (11) with Souths (10) less than a win behind.

“The top four play each other this week but it’s no different because it’s a tight competition,” Hurrell said. “You can’t look into your crystal ball and know what Wests are going to be like in three weeks time, or even us for that matter. It’s just got to be one week at a time. No one has really managed to show that consistency week-in and week-out yet. There have been glimpses but that will be the key.”

The Lions escaped unscathed from last week’s 28-12 victory against Kurri Kurri and are hoping their four Newcastle representative players back up from theNSW Country Championships final a day earlier.This includes in-touchfive-eighth William Heta, who has just returned from a knee injury and isamong the frontrunners for both player of the year and top point scorer.

Souths winger Marcus Boyle, described by Hurrell as “raw, quick and a good finisher”, will look to continue his form which leads the competition try scoring list on seven alongside Lakes opponentMatthew Craig.

In Sunday’s other game Wests welcome the return of former NRL backBrad Tighe from a hamstring injury but coach Steve Storrie remains unsure what position he will play. Rosellas winger Willis Alatini is unavailable for the clash with Macquarie.

Meanwhile, scans oninjured Central Newcastle forwardMatt Baker were inconclusive but doctors still suspect a fracture from Sunday’s head high tackle according to Butcher Boys captain-coach Rowan Kelly.

The retiring mentor saidBaker, who also suffered concussion from the incident, will definitely missSaturday’s encounter away against Cessnock.

Also on Saturday, in the final match of the round, Maitland host Kurri at Coronation Oval. The ground is located at Telarah and is the traditional home of the West Maitland Red Dogs. The alternative venueis being used by the Pickers with Maitland Sportsground out of action for the rest of the season becausemulti-million dollar 12-month redevelopments have commenced.