OF all the players lining up for Sunday's preliminary final between Western Suburbs and Maitland at Townson Oval, none is under more pressure than Pickers halfback Jade Porter.
The NSW Country representative will play his final match for a club he has helped win two Newcastle Rugby League premierships or crush the chances of a side he will steer around the paddock next season.
The chance of taking a grand final berth against Cessnock has increased the stakes.
It was made public just before the start of the finals series that Porter had signed with the Rosellas.
After successive minor and major premierships, the Pickers finished fourth this season and had to come from behind at half-time against South Newcastle and Macquarie to keep their season alive.
Porter admitted yesterday that he had mixed emotions over the impending end to his career at Maitland.
"It's been probably like that for the last two weeks during the sudden death, as I'm just thinking it could be my last game for Maitland," he said.
"At the end of the day I still have a job to do at Maitland, so I don't want to get caught up in the Wests situation.
"It's in the back of my mind that it could be my last game for Maitland, but you've got to be confident that it's not going to be my last game.
"I'm hoping my last game will be the grand final.
"I want to leave on a good note out there."
There was speculation that money was the deciding factor behind his move to Harker Oval, but Porter, who lives in Newcastle, said playing and training closer to home swayed him to join the Rosellas.
"I'm excited about the new challenge that's ahead of me in life," he said.
"They go about their business professionally at Wests, so I'm pretty happy with what they had for me and my family.
"I'm looking forward to it, but in saying that, I have a job to do on Sunday, which is beating Wests. So they're either going to love or hate me."
Porter's hamstring injury has been playing on his mind.
The hamstring has been strained five times this year, but it showed marked improvement on Sunday in the thrilling win over Macquarie.
Porter played without strapping for the first time in weeks.
"It's still a week-by-week thing and it's still limiting my training at the moment," he said. "I just wish it was 100 per cent, so I could play to my ability."
■ If you cannot get to Townson Oval on Sunday, you can listen to the preliminary final between Western Suburbs and Maitland on newcastlerugbyleague.com.au.
Former South Newcastle players Darren Forward and Tim Butler will call the action from 2pm.