Western Suburbs can take a giant step towards securing a top four spot in the Intrust Super Premiership competition this Sunday when they take on Mounties.
Coming off a disappointing last start defeat to the Penrith Panthers that saw the young Magpies side fade away in the second half, Brett Hodgson's men will be eager to bounce back against a Mounties side that currently sits second on the ladder with just three games remaining in the regular season.
With a win, Mounties will all but book themselves a top four finish and resign the Magpies to finishing fifth or lower, but a victory for the visitors will keep their hopes at the second-chance spot alive.
These two sides met just five weeks earlier in what was, incredibly, Western Suburbs' final home game of the year at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Despite boasting a high-profile forward pack and a number of dangerous outside backs, the Magpies were unable to stop Mounties getting a roll on throughout the second half with Craig Garvey in particular starring in an upset 28-8 win for the visitors.
Since that game, however, Mounties have had a mixed run of form with a 22-14 win over the lowly Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles followed by losses to the North Sydney Bears and Newcastle Knights.
Injuries and suspensions to the first-grade side have seen the depth of Mounties tested this season, and they'll certainly need to dig deep this weekend against a Magpies side facing similar depth issues.
Western Suburbs named a number of Jersey Flegg-eligible players for their recent defeat to Penrith and while they held their own for the first half, they simply couldn't match the class and experience of the Panthers in the second half — held scoreless for the second stanza as the home side piled on the points.
The young players in particular will be better for the run, and Coach Hodgson has shown great faith in them by naming a similarly young side again this weekend with six players in the team aged 20 or under.
Injuries to the likes of Tuimoala Lolohea, Tim Grant, Oliver Clark and Watson Heleta has hurt the Magpies in recent weeks while several first-grade players being out of action has forced a number of players to step up in to the top squad. However, this week appears to be the key with as many as five players potentially back on deck for next week's game against the Wyong Roos at Morry Breen Oval on the Central Coast.
If they can get through Sunday's game with the two points and make amends for their loss earlier in the year to Mounties, Wests will be in a great position to claim a top four spot ahead of the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership finals series — a feat that will certainly be deserved after their progress so far this season.
Playing in the penultimate game of the round, the Magpies will know exactly what is required of them by the time they kick off so it's shaping as an intriguing game indeed at GIO Stadium from 11:45am AEST.
Live coverage of the game can be found on FOX League from 11:30am AEST (check local guides).
Fullback for Mounties is number 1 Siti MoceidrekeFullback for Magpies is number 1 Dylan Smith
Winger for Mounties is number 2 Tony SatiniWinger for Magpies is number 2 Harrison O'Toole
Centre for Mounties is number 3 Sebastian KrisCentre for Magpies is number 3 Braden Robson
Centre for Mounties is number 25 Mathew LyonsCentre for Magpies is number 12 Sam McIntyre
Winger for Mounties is number 5 Taane MilneWinger for Magpies is number 4 Connelly Lemuelu
Five-Eighth for Mounties is number 6 Brendan O'HaganFive-Eighth for Magpies is number 6 Tyson Gamble
Halfback for Mounties is number 7 Tyler CornishHalfback for Magpies is number 19 Tuimoala Lolohea
Prop for Mounties is number 8 Royce HuntProp for Magpies is number 8 Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu
Hooker for Mounties is number 23 Joel LuaniHooker for Magpies is number 7 Pita Godinet
Prop for Mounties is number 21 Liam KnightProp for Magpies is number 10 Cowen Epere
2nd Row for Mounties is number 12 Jarrett Boland2nd Row for Magpies is number 11 Chris McQueen
2nd Row for Mounties is number 16 Sam Duggan2nd Row for Magpies is number 14 Bayley Sironen
Lock for Mounties is number 13 Emre GulerLock for Magpies is number 13 Patrice Siolo
Interchange for Mounties is number 14 Corey HorsburghInterchange for Magpies is number 9 Kurt Aldridge
Interchange for Mounties is number 15 Steve TavitaInterchange for Magpies is number 15 Thomas Mikaele
Interchange for Mounties is number 19 Daniel RobertsInterchange for Magpies is number 16 Ben Seufale
Interchange for Mounties is number 24 Sonny BristowInterchange for Magpies is number 18 Alex Seyfarth
- Referee: Adam Cassidy
- Touch Judge: John Woods
- Touch Judge: Martin Jones