Wallabys only one hop away from grand final
RUGBY LEAGUE: Injured Wallabys five-eighth Matt Baker says a fast start is the key to toppling North Chargers in the Rockhampton Rugby League reserves preliminary final tomorrow afternoon.
Wallabys last met Chargers last month in Round 17 where the Rockhampton side won 30-18.
The Chargers ran in six tries to four that day with Baker, Ashley Dodd, Willy Wain and Dylan Lawson crossing the stripe.
Three of those four tries were scored during the second half after Norths jumped to a 20-4 half-time lead.
Wallabys can ill-afford to make a similar start in the grand final qualifier according to Baker.
Getting to Browne Park prior to the 4.30pm kick-off and having time to warm up, unlike their previous encounter, would also help the Wallabys' cause.
"We need to get there early and have a good warm-up,” Baker said.
"The last game we didn't have a good warm-up and Chargers came out and put two quick tries on us - we were 12 points down before we even started playing.
"So if we can play from the kick-off we've got a good chance of beating them.”
Baker is battling a collapsed lung and has not played for Wallabys since their July 29 derby against Calliope.
The playmaker would love to be out in the middle, but the father of two is erring on the side of caution.
Youngster Josh Clarke has stepped up in Baker's absence and has been gelling well with veteran halfback and player/coach Dodd.
"(Josh) is solid all-round player,” Baker said.
"He's good in defence and helps Bundi (Dodd) out in attack and helps feed the ball out to Jamie Powell in the centres.”
Wallabys have been struggling with some niggling injuries, but could be bolstered by the return of influential prop Jacob Campbell.
Lock Damien McAllister (shoulder) remains a 50/50 proposition, while damaging back-rower Ben Kerr will be put in cotton wool until kick-off.
The Wallabys will need all their big boppers on deck to make inroads into the Chargers' defence.
"We've got to get it done in the forwards first,” Baker said.
"So we're looking at our front-rowers to take it up the middle first and get the ball out to the backs to score the tries.”
Wallabys' deep run this season has impressed club president Darren Martin after the team entered the Rockhampton competition this year.
"Being in the Rocky comp is a lot stronger whereas last year was just local teams,” Martin said.
"The boys have done well especially with mixed numbers, but they've kept that core group together throughout the year.”