OLD Bar coach Danny Russell has been cleared to play in tomorrow's Group Three Rugby League match of the round against Port Macquarie at the Old Bar.
Russell injured his ankle three weeks ago in the match against Wauchope and missed Old Bar's clash against Taree City. The Pirates then had a free weekend with the split round.
"I'm right now,'' Russell said.
"I'll be playing.''
However, the Pirates have a couple of injury concerns leading into the game that will decide third place. Lock Jake Wheeler has a broken thumb and will miss tomorrow's game as well as the opening week of the semi-finals. Centre Daniel Morris is out for a week with a facial injury. Russell is waiting word on whether Jake Hazard has been cleared to play from a cheekbone injury suffered against Forster-Tuncurry earlier in the season.
Russell said the week's break was timely for his side.
"It's helped freshen us up,'' he said. "We had a few blokes with niggles.''
The Pirates trail Port Sharks by a point going into the game. A win for Old Bar guarantees them a berth in the preliminary semi-final the following weekend, even if Wingham beats Port City, as the Pirates have a superior points differential. However, a loss against Port and a win for Wingham would see the Pirates slip down to fifth place and mean playing the elimination semi-final at Wingham.
Russell agrees the Pirates have improved defensively in recent weeks. He said earlier in the year his side could score points against anyone but stopping them was proving to be a problem.
"That's what happens when they start to listen what's been said at training,'' Russell added.
Port beat Old Bar in the first round clash but Russell is confident his side will put in an improved showing at Old Bar, particularly with so much riding on the game.
Taree City will finalise commitments for the year against Macleay Valley at Kempsey on Sunday.