It’s a place every team wants to be come the end of the season – with their 14-4 victory over Kurri Kurri on Saturday, Maitland have ensured they will have a hand in their own finals fates in the tail-end of the Blues Tag season.
“We knew it was a vital fixture for us against Kurri, they’re just that single slot above us in the standings and a win against them gives us a good spot from which to have a stab at the semifinals,” Pickers coach Tony Howard told the Chronicle.
“The team was at bare minimum for the game, and we got down to barebones because of injury in the game, so everyone was pretty happy we got over the line.
“We’re masters of our own destiny now, if we’d lost I think we would have had to go undefeated right until the end of the season for finals and that’s always a pretty big ask when there’s a few tough games on the horizon.”
The game wasn’t open and shut for the Pickers at Maitland Sportsground. The Bulldogs were first off the mark after a dropped ball opened up Maitland’s defence and let Kurri draw first blood in the short-scoring contest.
Breanna Lacy fired back in the clash with a try and a goal of her own, while Charlotte Mcleish and Amy Dufour rounded out the Pickers’ 14 points as they bounced back to clock up the key win in Round 12.
“After falling behind it was really pleasing to see the girls didn’t panic, they could have been pushing passes and trying to score and then making mistakes, but that didn’t happen and that was great to see,” Howard said.
“Kurri got a bit like that towards the end, but they had some fantastic attacks that took a lot for us to stop. They had some great passing plays, and were kicking really dangerously, and I’m proud of the girls for holding them out for so long.”
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Now that Maitland have edged so close to Kurri in the standings, Howard has faith his side can overtake them in the final four-week run in.
With the Bulldogs set to face Central (nine wins, one draw) and then Souths (eight wins), the difficulty of fixture may play a major role in who slots in the top five.
“Kurri have the toughest run home in the league I think, some of their hardest games are yet to come in the next few weeks,” the Pickers boss said.
“With any luck we can pick up a few wins in the next few fixtures to take advantage of that, and that should get us towards the semifinals. If we can play well in the next month and show that we deserve it, I think we can make it there for sure.”
Elsewhere on the weekend in the Blues Tag competition, Wests kept pace in the top four with a major 40-0 win over Nelson Bay, while Central retained their five-point lead on the Blues Tag competition with a 38-4 win over the Goannas in Cessnock.
Lakes were given an automatic victory after Macquarie had to forfeit due to player numbers, while South Newcastle had the Round 12 bye.
TABLE: Central (25), Lakes, Wests, Souths (20), Kurri (15), Maitland (14), Nelson Bay (10), Cessnock (6), Macquarie (4).