The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs have built their season on selfless acts and being prepared to work for each other.
They will need it on Sunday when they face a talented and experienced Lakes United at Cahill Oval.
The Bulldogs returned to winning form with a 14-6 victory against a determined Cessnock last Saturday, in a rejigged line-up based on one of those selfless acts.
Struggling to find form as a team on the back of an extended break, hooker Tom McKenzie proved the commitment was much more than idle words going to coach Ron Griffiths suggesting he relinquish his starting role in favour of Country NSW hooker Ben Wyborn.
The combination of McKenzie starting and Wyborn coming on midway through the first half had served the Bulldogs well, but McKenzie felt a change was needed to give the team the spark it needed to return to the winner’s circle.
The change worked. Wyborn was best afield in the Bulldogs tough win and McKenzie delivered in the utility role as Kurri Kurri weathered a huge second half effort by the Goannas.
Griffiths revealed the behind the scenes conversation with a mixture of pride and admiration as the Bulldogs prepare to take on the second-placed Seagulls.
“Full credit to Tom, the selflessness he showed to say ‘I think this is best for the team if he starts and then I come on the back of foundation he laid,” Griffiths said.
“He is there for the betterment of the team. That’s the most important thing, that’s what we’re trying to build a club and a team.”
The Bulldogs have had to recast their side with the loss of forwards Mick Campton and Peter Cronin and half Sam Wooden to injury
“At this stage we’re still waiting for some more information on Sam but the latest information we’ve been given is four to six weeks.
“We came through reasonably unscathed on Saturday, which is good compared with the week before when we lost Sam and Peter Cronin fractured eye socket, other than that good to go.”
The Bulldogs will start with Jade Porter at halfback, Jarom Haines at five-eighth, Mitch Cullen at lock and a front-row of Brock Gilmour, Mick Steele, Jordy Mitchell and Kahn Junke.
Back-rowers Brady Hammond and Reid Alchin are expected to play the entire 80 minutes.
“Lakes are a very established outfit through the middle of the park, they’ve got a lot of players who have played at a higher level,” Griffiths said
“It’s a big challenge for our guys, but we know our guys prepare well and we’ve got confidence they can compete and match it with them.
“It’s really good to have Jade back. He was off the pace a bit last week in terms of football fitness, but his communication and leadership came to the fore.”