South Newcastle’s season may hang in the balance approaching Saturday’s sole catch-up game at home with Cessnock but Lions coach Ben Cross has created some certainty for the club around 2018.
Cross has re-signed for next season after deciding to extend his initial one-year deal, wanting to see where he can take the defending champions during this campaign and beyond.
“Definitely [going again],” Cross, who will also look after the NSW women’s side for a third term next year, said.
“You’re not going to achieve much doing one year stints with different clubs and just changing from club to club, but I know that’s what happens.
“You’re not going to lay down much foundation and get much out of doing one year stints. I’m looking forward to another year.”
Cross took over from premiership-winning captain-coach Todd Hurrell after the Lions broke a 27-year title drought and a new-look outfit sits fifth with three regular round matches remaining.
Souths can finish as high as fourth and as low as sixth, but making the top five continues to be Cross’ main priority.
It means backing up Sunday’s crucial 36-18 victory against Lakes, who are now one win above them, even more important when the Goannas, who are now one win below them, travel to Townson Oval this weekend.
The Lions then face top-three teams Western Suburbs and Central Newcastle on the run home to next month’s semi-finals.
“Every game’s a must win,” Cross said.
“The boys take a bit of confidence out of last week but I brought them back down to earth pretty quickly because they still weren’t anywhere near their best and there’s plenty of room for improvement.”
Cross said Liam Higgins, Ben Roose and Matt Shipway all had fitness “question marks” while utility forward Angelo Piccone (ankle) was already ruled out.
Cessnock coach Steve Kidd knows this fixture spells “make or break” for the Goannas to keep their season alive and he hopes to regain the services of injured trio Kurt Warden, Cody Brooks and Theeran Pearson.
Kick-off is 2:30pm.