YENDA have been struck by an injury curse on the eve of the Group 20 finals series with five influential players battling injuries.
Tom Sellars, Kodie Charles and Jarrad Williams have been ruled out of the must-win clash with Bidgee Hurricanes tomorrow with playmakers Shannon Rupapere and David Rauluni also in doubt.
The injury crisis could not have come at a worst time for the Blueheelers as it looks to derail their finals campaign.
Coach Roy Romeo said as it stands Sellars and Charles would be unable to line-up with shoulder complaints with Williams out with an ankle injury.
He only rated Rupapere (ankle) and Rauluni (hamstring) 50-50 chances of playing tomorrow.
“We are struggling big time with injuries but we are still pretty confident we can come over and do the job,” Romeo said.
“Hopefully a miracle happens and they can play, but I don’t think they will.”
“It will be difficult without those guys, but we still need to prepare for the whole 80 minutes as (Bidgee) will be firing after copping a touch up last week, which I didn’t expect.”
The Hurricanes were on the end of a 54-18 loss to Leeton last Sunday, their biggest loss of the season and have lost three of their last four games.
Coach Chris Bamford admitted his team is in a “slump” and is looking to make a few positional changes in hope of sparking theteam into action ahead of the elimination semi-final.
Sean Scott has been moved from hooker to halfback with Stewart James moving into the front row causing Bamford to drop back to the second row with Willie Newton moving to lock.
“I’ve made the decision to make a few changes and hopefully it goes in our favour,” Bamford said.
“After being beaten on the weekend like that – we haven’t been beaten like that by any side – so the boys have to get out of that slump and forget about last week as it is a totally different ball game in the semis.”
Bamford is looking for his team to go back to doing to basics right in the hope of extending its season.
“Our defence has been lacking in the past few weeks and we really need to pick that up if we are any chance of progressing in the semis,” Bamford said.
“A big thing at the moment is handling errors – there has been far too many mistakes lately. Once we hold the ball we can really get into a grind with these top sides, but when we make silly mistakes we really shoot ourselves in the foot.
“With finals footy the speed picks up and you really can’t afford to get give the team’s any opportunities or territory.”
The two teams have been evenly matched this season, having recorded one win each with the biggest margin only being four points.
Both coaches are expecting another close encounter, with Romeo looking for his side to try to limit Bamford’s influence on the match.
“We’ve got to nullify him, that is our main goal on the weekend. We can’t focus all our attention on him, but a lot of their go-forward comes from him,” he said. “You won’t completely stop him, but just limit his impact on the game as well as Willie Newton.
“They were the premiership favourites at the start of the year and you don’t get classed as premiership favourites and then fade out, they will come out all gun blazing.
“The last two weeks we’ve been starting off slow in the first half, so we have to make sure we get a good start, control the ball and get to our kicks.”