OLD Bar rugby league player-coach Danny Russell admits Kempsey's Verge Street Oval is something of a hoodoo ground for him.
He'll lead the Pirates into Sunday's Group Three preliminary semi-final against Macleay Valley at Verge Street on Sunday. Russell played there a number of times when he was in Group Two with Sawtell.
"I think in all the games I've played there I've only won about twice,'' he said.
"So hopefully that'll be different this week.''
The Pirates claimed third place on the ladder with a bruising two point win over Port Sharks last Sunday. Old Bar were the first side to defeat the Mustangs this year although that game was at Old Bar.
Old Bar were grand finalists last season but the side Russell took on was almost completely different from that team. Early in the season it appeared that Old Bar would struggle to even make the five, let alone finish in the top three.
"If we'd won a couple of tight games we could have finished even higher,'' Russell said.
"But I'll take third.''
Russell said hard running second rower Jai Simon's recent form had been a revelation. He was Old Bar's best against Port.
"He takes some stopping,'' Russell said.
He was due to finalise his side last night. Centre Daniel Morris missed last week's win with a facial injury while Russell hopes Jake Hazzard will be cleared to play after recovering from a cheekbone injury. Second rower Tom Dooker damaged his shoulder against the Sharks and is in some doubt.
While Old Bar's defence has improved in the last month Russell knows they'll have to be at their best on Sunday to thwart the free-flowing Mustangs. While Macleay will be without three players, Nathan Davis, Richard Roberts and Stephen Walker who are under suspension, Russell doesn't believe they'll be weakened.
"The players coming in will be out to keep their places for the game ahead,'' he reasoned.
Old Bar will also be represented in the league tag game against Wauchope from 10.55am with Wingham and Wauchope to clash in under 18s at 12.05pm. Wingham and Port Sharks meet in reserve grade from 1.15pm with the first grade to kick off at 3pm.