Roos ready to test Two Blues

LAKE Macquarie coaching staff expected it would take time for the new-look Roos to hit full stride.

They recruited heavily in the off-season and put in place new structures aimed at getting the Roos off the bottom of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union table.

It has taken until nearly the halfway point of the season, but the Roos are starting to realise their potential.

They ground out a 21-12 victory over last season’s premiers, Merewether, last round and are out for a repeat against perennial powerhouse Wanderers at No.2 Sportsground today.

‘‘It is a big game on a number of fronts,’’ assistant coach Steve Cooper said.

‘‘Most of the sides can see we are building. Some of the longer-term players have to start believing. They have been on the end of some hidings over a number of years.

‘‘They need a bit more belief and expectation to win.

‘‘That is the mindset we have now. That doesn’t come just from beating Merewether.

‘‘We held Beaches scoreless for 50minutes and went pretty well [in the loss] against Hamilton.

‘‘It is important that we finish this round off well and use it as a springboard into the second round.’’

Most of the changes have been in the Roos backline.

Alo brothers Ray and Dave and fullback Matt Clarke have moved up from Sydney, and Brendan Holiday and Mika Taufao are back at Walters Park after time away.

‘‘For the first time in a while we have problems trying to fit everyone in the backline,’’ Cooper said.

‘‘When you have guys like Simon Tufi playing seconds, it is a luxury we haven’t had for a while. The combination between Brendan and Ray will be important.

‘‘We have to make sure that when we do go wide, we control the breakdown. They have basically two number sevens in their back row. We need to get to the breakdown and secure the ball.’’

Approaching the mid-point of the campaign, the Roos (17 points) are in eighth place on a tightly packed table in which seven points covers third to ninth. Wanderers (23 points) are equal third and welcome back NSW Country trio Anthony Barrett, Damian Winter and Corey Te Koeti.

After ending Southern Beaches’ perfect run, the Two Blues were brought back to earth with a 42-10 loss to Hamilton.

Wanderers captain and outside centre Barrett will go head-to-head with his former Manly teammate Dave Alo.

‘‘He is a strong ball runner and good defender,’’ Barrett said. ‘‘I would expect him to be up and in all day rather than slide [in defence].

‘‘It will be a very physical game. The chat [at training] on Thursday was that we need to to step up the aggression and stop being so considerate to the opposition.’’

Kiwi import Zion Takarua and Newcastle representative trio Mark Sherwood, Luke Gibson and Marcus Simpson, who are returning from injuries, have been named in second grade for Wanderers.

‘‘That is something we haven’t had for a while – pressure from second grade,’’ Barrett said.

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