Taree City coach Gary Bridge calls for referees to crack down on Port Macquarie's Joe Cudmore

Taree City forward Josh Northam makes a charge during a clash this season. The Bulls will be looking for a big game from Northam in the minor semi-final.

Taree City forward Josh Northam makes a charge during a clash this season. The Bulls will be looking for a big game from Northam in the minor semi-final.

TAREE City coach Gary Bridge hopes Port Macquarie five-eighth Joe Cudmore sticks to football and not refereeing in the Group Three Rugby League minor semi-final at Wauchope on Saturday.

“We don’t need Joe Cudmore refereeing the game,'’ Bridge said.

“He can leave that to (referee) Cory Richardson – that’s his job.’’

Bridge claims referees allow Cudmore to have too much say during a match, adding this gives him too much influence. A former group player of the year, Cudmore returned to the Shark pack this season after undergoing a knee reconstruction in 2016. This helped spark a resurgence after the Sharks earlier looked set to struggle to make the five following an indifferent first round.

“Joe’s a good player and that’s what he should concentrate on,’’ Bridge said.

That aside Bridge has named a squad of 20 for the match and he may wait until Saturday morning to settle on his final 17. There are four under 18s in the 20, with Taree’s juniors playing in the major semi at Port Macquarie on Sunday against Macleay Valley.

Taree made it through a bruising elimination semi-final against Old Bar last Saturday without any injury problems, despite Bridge saying at fulltime his players were ‘busted.’ Bridge confirmed that Mick Henry will be starting tomorrow, although he wasn't saying whether it would be at hooker or halfback.

Taree had a comfortable win over the Sharks in the opening round, but Bridge agreed Port are a far more formidable combination now. The Sharks won a tightly contested second round game at Taree where they edged the Bulls out of third place.

Bridge is concerned the Bulls allow opposing sides too much latitude when they are working the ball out from their own territory.

“We concede a lot of long distance tries,’’ he said.

“We defend pretty well on our own line, but we have to keep that pressure all over the field.’’

The Bulls are the only southern side left in the first grade competition. Last year the Bulls were bundled out in the minor semi by Wingham.

Taree is still alive in two grades after the reserve grade and league tag sides were bundled out in the elimination semis.

“I won’t have to motivate them this week. Playing finals football will be motivation enough,’' Bridge said.

Winner of Saturday’s game will meet the loser of the major semi-final in the final on Saturday August 19.

Southern side seek grand final spots

WINGHAM reserve grade, Taree City under 18s and Old Bar’s league tag will look to ensure the south of a representation on Group Three Rugby League grand final day in Sunday’s major semi-finals at Port Macquarie.

All will have to beat minor premiers in the major semi to move through to the August 27 matches. 

Wingham and Old Bar both play Port City while the Bulls tackle Macleay Valley. All southern combinations were impressive winners in the opening round of the finals series last weekend.

Old Bar under 18s will look to keep their premiership aspirations alive in the minor semi-final on Saturday at Wauchope.

The league tag minor semi-final will feature Wauchope and Forster-Tuncurry.

Matches on both days start at 10.55 with league tag followed by the under 18s at noon. Reserve grade begins at 1.25 with the first grade underway from 3pm.

Whatever the result of Sunday’s first grade major semi between Port City and Macleay, the Group Three grand finals will again be played at a northern venue.

The Breakers are unbeaten and will be favoured to win the match and host the grand finals. If this is the case it will be the third successive year the grand final has been played at Port Regional Stadium. A southern club hasn’t hosted grand final day since 2007.