MAITLAND coach Geoff Golledge does not have too many fond memories of trips to ‘‘Disneyland’’, the inhospitable home of Lake Macquarie.
Regardless of where the Roos – Boolaroo as they were in Golledge’s playing days – sit on the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union ladder, there have been few easy days for away teams at Walters Park.
Most contests there are scrappy, knock-’em-down, drag-’em-out affairs.
Golledge does not expect anything different today, despite confronting a reshaped Roos outfit that boasts a pacey and powerful backline headed by Alo brothers Ray and Dave, Simon Tufi and Mika Taufaao.
‘‘At this point in time they are an unknown quantity,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘They got beat by Nelson Bay and then had a good win against University.
‘‘It is hard to take anything from that. Suffice to say that whenever you go to Disneyland it is a hard game.
‘‘They have obviously brought in some players.
‘‘Some of our rep players trained with them in the pre-season and said they were a step up from what they used to be. It is good to have fast backs, but you still have to get on top at the breakdown and in the forwards to take advantage of that.’’
The Blacks, who are chasing their first win after opening the season with losses to Southern Beaches (21-12) and Hamilton (17-14), will be missing NSW Country second-rower Mick Howell and five-eighth Matt Jarrett.
Golledge said there were some encouraging signs against the Hawks, especially in the second half when they came back from 17-0.
‘‘Our ball retention was good and we were able to mount some pressure,’’ he said.
‘‘Also our scrum, we took a couple of tight-heads off them.
‘‘It was a marked improvement on the first game.
‘‘We have dumbed it down again this week and gone with a pretty basic game plan.
‘‘If we can tire them out by making them defend for long periods of time, that will disrupt their attack.’’
Adam Perkins, whose return is gaining momentum, switches from the side of the scrum to his preferred No.8.
‘‘Perko hadn’t started a first-grade game for two years,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘He took a while to find his feet in the trials and was probably half a yard off the pace against Southern Beaches in round one.
‘‘Last week he was back to his best.’’
Assistant coach Bob Harrison said the Roos had concentrated on defence, particularly in the five-eighth-inside-centre channel, in readiness for the Blacks.
‘‘We have worked hard on defensive structures and alignments,’’ he said.
‘‘As long as we control the ball, we have enough firepower to score points.’’
Hamilton have lost NSW Country quintet Nick Palmer, Steve Lamont, Lewie Catt, Pat Kilmurray and Ben Harriss for the clash with Singleton at Passmore Oval.
The Waratahs host Southern Beaches, Wanderers take on University at University No.1 Oval and Nelson Bay are away to Merewether-Carlton.
Meanwhile, the opening of No.2 Sportsground has been put back until May 26.
Wanderers were to christen their new $7million home gainst Maitland next Saturday but that was canned after a council inspection of the new playing surface on Monday.
The Two Blues will play the Blacks at Marcellin Park.
The clash against Singleton set down for May 12 is expected to be moved to Passmore Oval, meaning the first home game will be against Southern Beaches in round seven.