Hawks still ready to fly without rep stars

COACH Scott Coleman has dismissed the fact Hamilton are without six NSW Country representatives and is confident the Hawks will roll up their sleeves against Southern Beaches at Cahill Oval today.

Hamilton and Southern Beaches are the only unbeaten sides after four rounds of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.

The Hawks have largely got the job done without the help of representative stars Ben Harriss, Pat Kilmurray, Lewie Catt, Steve Lamont, Nick Palmer and Va Talaileva.

All but Palmer, who has a nerve problem in his leg, are in Rockhampton for the NSW Country Cockatoos’ clash against Queensland Country tonight.

There is also a question over the availability of game-breaker Damien Wells, who is due to leave for Western Australia to live any day.

‘‘It will be a real test to see where we are at,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘The fact we are missing players hasn’t come into it.

‘‘The boys who are there have done the job and are focused on keeping the momentum going.’’

Apart from a couple of minor injuries, Southern Beaches have been at full strength throughout.

They overpowered defending premiers Merewether Carlton 35-10 last round, ending the Greens’ 23-game unbeaten run.

‘‘They are very much forward-oriented,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘They have a strong lineout and scrum and rely on their pick and drive.

‘‘It is one of those games where we are going to have to roll up the sleeves and get stuck in.

‘‘Bleddyn Gant and [hooker] Charl van Niekerk give them their go-forward.

‘‘The 10 tends to punch the corners a bit and the fullback Tim Riley has some wheels, but there is no doubt the game will be decided in the forwards. That is where our focus has been.’’

Since their Premier Rugby promotion in 2008, Southern Beaches had never won the opening game of the season, let alone strung four together.

‘‘It is by far our best start,’’ captain Andy Delore said.

‘‘Making the semis for the first time was good for the confidence and gave us that belief. We have built on that and also had a pretty big pre-season.

‘‘The addition of Bleddyn and Mark O’Brien has also provided us with a bit more leadership. Our forwards have been relentless.’’

Despite the loss of the Country players, the Hawks boast Newcastle representatives Travis Soulsby, William Soe, Aiden Kwast, Steve Sione, Chris Stratton, Ivan Walkling and former Manly first-grader Paul Dan.

‘‘This is definitely our biggest test,’’ Delore said. ‘‘Even without their stars they are still a very strong side. They have guys playing second grade who would make most first-grade teams. The key for us is cutting down mistakes.’’

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