IT’s not quite panic stations just yet, but Forster-Tuncurry Hawks coach Graeme Jennings says that his side simply must start stringing some wins together approaching the semi-finals.
The Hawks face fierce rivals Port City at Harry Elliot Oval on Sunday in what is also the club’s Old Boys Day.
The Hawks looked to have turned a corner with a convincing 54-30 win over Wauchope three weeks ago but the suspensions of Kurt Lewis, Dean Basham and Corey Shields as well as injuries to Matt Hill and Matt Finlayson have undoubtedly taken some wind from the Hawks sails.
The Hawks have since fought out an unconvincing draw with Old Bar and a loss to Taree last week. Jennings refuses to use the missing personnel as an excuse for the performances.
“We had a side on the field capable of winning both those games and we were in position to win in both matches but costly errors and penalties, particularly late the tackle count, have just killed us.”
Jennings confirmed that Basham and Finlayson will take their place in the starting 13 with Shields to make his return from the interchange bench.
The return of the experienced trio will go some way towards covering the loss of injury plagued five-eighth Sam McCartney, who tore his hamstring in the loss to Taree, and brother Josh McCartney who also suffered a hamstring injury on the Jack Neal Oval quagmire.
2011 Group Three halfback of the year Byram Stewart, who’s played the last two matches at fullback, is an ideal replacement at seven with centre Brayden Wynter to shift to five-eighth and Des Donnelly to return to his favoured position at fullback.
“We can’t expect these blokes to come back and magically fix the problems we’ve been having, most of them come down to ball control and discipline,” Jennings said.
The Hawks accounted for Port in convincing fashion in round one in what was their best performance of the year. However Port won the return clash at Port Macquarie and enter Sunday’s clash at the top of the table as the competition’s form side.
Their run of form has coincided with the return of seasoned campaigner Josh Hyde at five-eighth. Hyde may lack some flair but is an astute customer and the best organising half in the competition. Representative forwards Mitch Fowler and Josh Osborne are tireless workers in the forwards and captain and hooker Glen Littler is a constant danger from dummy half.
The Hawks will be desperate for a win in their last home game of the season.
The rivalry will extend to the juniors on Sunday with Port versus Hawks in under 12s at 9am right up to the main game at 2.45pm.