Roos no longer whipping boys

LAKE Macquarie captain Cal Menzies does not remember who the Maitland player was except that he was a prop.

It was late in the game and the Roos were on the end of a 67-0 hiding at Marcellin Park last season.

A Maitland front-rower had pierced the defence and set sail for the try line.

With nothing but open space between him and a rare five-pointer, the showboat produced an around-the-back flick pass to his support, much to the hilarity of the Blacks faithful.

It was the ultimate embarrassment.

‘‘When they are taking the mickey out of you like that it’s pretty demoralising,’’ Menzies said.

‘‘There have been a lot of hard days at the office like that up there.’’

The Marcellin mauling was number 15 of 18 straight losses for Lake Macquarie last season.

But a new-look Roos – in personnel and attitude – will venture back up the New England Highway today.

Former Waikato Chiefs lock Mark Burman is one of a half dozen who are heading to Marcellin for the first time.

Not only that, the Roos are fresh from a club record 86-12 thumping of University and can leapfrog their hosts.

‘‘This week at training [coach] Danny Maiava raised some of the results we have had at Marcellin,’’ Menzies said. ‘‘They have been pretty brutal. Hopefully this time we can turn things around.

‘‘This is a huge game for us. If we can’t beat Maitland now, it will put pressure on us to knock off a couple of those teams that are running in the top three.’’

Perennial battlers Lake Macquarie have undergone a major transformation.

Although far from the finished product, the Roos sit in sixth place on 27 points, a point behind Maitland.

‘‘Having numbers helps greatly,’’ Menzies said. ‘‘We have had quality players over the past few years, but unfortunately there have been some key areas where we were really underpowered.

‘‘The good teams know how to isolate that and attack those areas.

‘‘Having [assistant coach] Bob Harrison come on board, we are fitter than we have ever been.

‘‘In the past it was a case of hang on and Lake Macquarie will drop away. Now that is one of the strongest parts of our game.’’

Menzies also had praise for Burman, 27, who will line up for his third game since arriving from Italy.

‘‘When you get a bloke like that, you pretty much give him free rein,’’ Menzies said.

‘‘He has tidied up our lineout. It is interesting to see how something which can be very complicated can also be very simple.’’

The Blacks are coming off back-to-back losses to front-runners Hamilton and Southern Beaches and are without injured trio Matt Jarett, Mick Howell and Michael Hendry.

‘‘In parts against Hamilton and Southern Beaches we played well,’’ coach Geoff Golledge said.

‘‘We are just lacking confidence. You can see it in the way we are playing.

‘‘We have had a relaxed week at training, and hopefully that might get them ready.’’

Maitland accounted for Lake Macquarie 25-23 at Walters Park in their first meeting in round three.

‘‘They seem a little bit like us; up and down, hot and cold,’’ Golledge said. ‘‘In saying that, they gave us tough game in the first round and we are expecting nothing less.’’

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