CSU Yellow will start as marginal favourites this afternoon when they host the Blackheath Black Cats at Diggings Oval in the major semi-final of the Centennial Coal Cup.
With Kandos having lost the majority of the players who made their team unbeatable last season, the top of the table in 2014 has been much more even and the rivalry between CSU Yellow and Blackheath reflects it.
In their two meetings this year they have claimed a win each, with the Mungoes defeating the Black Cats 32-16 in round two before the result was reversed in round nine, Blackheath winning 26-22 at Diggings Oval.
Mungoes captain-coach Brad Dewar is expecting another close contest and one in which his side will have to work hard to penetrate a solid Blackheath line.
“I think defence is their biggest strength, they aim up very well on individuals in the opposition side and their line speed is very good,” Dewar explained.
“It is hard to know how to counteract that sometimes. They don’t really have a lot of weaknesses and play as a solid unit.
“But there are a few ideas we have up our sleeves that we think can break things open a bit and hopefully put them under pressure.”
The Mungoes are back to full strength bar the absence of starting prop Evan Jones, who is unavailable through work commitments.
The likes of Dewar at half-back along with Terrence Lindsay at fullback and Tom McDevitt at hooker will be the men charged with trying to find a way through the Blackheath defence.
In recent weeks the Centennial Coal Cup has been marred by controversy with Wallerawang copping a two-match suspension from the competition following on from other misdemeanours throughout the season.
But Dewar isn’t expecting anything other than football to be on the minds of all players in action at Diggings today, particularly with a home grand final on the line.
“Blackheath are a pretty disciplined side, they know that they are there to play football and nothing else,” he said.
“After the last match here, we all went and had a beer together and they are a good bunch of blokes. You will always get the odd scuffle or something on the footy field, but it doesn’t go beyond that with these guys.
“We would love to get a home decider and get the advantage that goes with it, Blackheath wouldn’t be too keen on coming back out here if they lost this week and then made it through.
“The week off would certainly be a big asset too, so there’s a lot to play for as far as we’re concerned.”
CSU Yellow and Blackheath do battle at Diggings Oval from 2.30pm.