MACQUARIE coach Noel Dent believes his side have been unfairly labelled as ill-disciplined and the Scorpions must overcome that reputation to remain in the Newcastle Rugby League premiership hunt.
The Scorpions’ best season in five years goes on the line tomorrow when they host Maitland in the sudden-death minor semi-final at Peacock Field.
Last Sunday Macquarie were beaten 42-22 by Western Suburbs and were heavily penalised.
This season the Scorpions have developed a reputation as a physical unit.
Forwards Adam Swadling, Daine Laurie, Danny Vaughan and Blake Gallen are particularly tough defenders.
But Dent is concerned his Scorpions are being perceived as a dirty side.
“It all stems from that game where we beat Wests at Harker Oval,” he said.
“We were pretty physical, but there was nothing dirty.
“We haven’t had a player sent off. Apart from Laurie and Swadling, the back row are midgets.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to control it and give them no opportunity, because referees are going to find points somewhere, so we can’t give them free ones.”
Macquarie received good news yesterday that Vaughan was likely to play tomorrow, after doctors told the prop that no further damage could be done to his shoulder.
Halfback Mick Moran is another matter.
Dent will give Moran until kick-off tomorrow to overcome his ankle injury, but the chances of last year’s grand final hero playing against his former club appear to be slim.
Back-rowers Simon Allen and Josh Schmiedel are likely replacements in the halves and regular five-eighth Jacob Briggs is in the mix.
The Pickers’ only injury concern is hooker PJ Ellis, but the veteran’s wrist has improved during the week.
The Scorpions have three grades in action tomorrow and Peacock Field traditionally creates an intimidating atmosphere for travelling teams.
“We’ve got to take the crowd out of the game. That’s one of the things we’ve spoken about during the week,” Maitland coach Ron Griffiths said.
“They’re always going to be vocal, but the better we go the less they’ve got to cheer for, and it’s a completely different support.”
The Pickers were far from impressive in last week’s 22-8 elimination semi-final win over South Newcastle.
The defending premiers’ handling was poor and their attack was disjointed.
But what impressed Griffiths was their ability to grind out another finals victory to extend their play-offs record to five straight wins over the past three seasons.
“That’s what Maitland have been known for, sticking with sides and sapping the life out of them in the second half,” he said.
“I think this year it’s evident again.”