It wasn’t all that long ago that Macquarie were the toast of the Newcastle Rugby League world.
Premiers after two previous grand-final defeats. Knocking off favourites Western Suburbs for the title. And breaking a 26-year drought at Toronto, celebrating the club’s first success since 1991.
Less than 12 months down the track and the Scorpions sit second last on the competition ladder, only four points outside the top five but with just five rounds left in the regular season the defending champions are in danger of missing the play-offs all together.
The 2018 campaign started with promise, however, three wins on the trot were followed by seven losses and a draw from Macquarie’s next eight outings.
Now, the Scorpions visit 2016 premiers South Newcastle at Townson Oval on Saturday in what coach Adam Bettridge has described as a make or break moment.
“This is it,” Bettridge told the Newcastle Herald.
“If we don’t win on the weekend we’re no chance at all. Our season is on the line. If we lose then there’s just too many points to catch up in front of us.”
Injuries have not been kind to Macquarie with inspirational forward Daniel Abraham and halfback Andy Sumner still sidelined for another couple of weeks. Fullback Kyle Eather (knee) has been lost for the season.
Suspensions, including Adam Swadling and Tye Alchin, didn’t help the cause either.
Three defeats by a converted try or less make it even more frustrating for the boys from Lyall Peacock Field.
And while coach Bettridge, signed until the end of 2020, said he accepts “full responsibility” for the results he pointed out defence as a major issue.
“We don’t deserve to be in the top five at the moment,” he said. “We’re conceding 30 points a game and that’s not good enough. Our defence hasn’t been up to it.”
Souths coach Ben Cross said the third-placed Lions had their full complement of players available.
Elsewhere in round 12 of the Newcastle Rugby League and last-placed Cessnock have copped another season-ending injury, this time five-eighth Jake McNamara suffering a suspected broken disc in his back.
Outgoing Goannas captain-coach Al Lantry said McNamara was unable to finish training on Tuesday after first feeling the pinch during the weekend’s 32-12 loss to Central.
Adding to casualty ward, former Knights player Chanel Mata’utia (knee) remains an uncertain starter against Wests at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
The fourth-placed Rosellas are also down two key troops with Lebanese World Cup representative James Elias and hooker Chris Knight both out with knee injuries.
On Sunday and Lakes host Kurri Kurri for the second straight week at Cahill Oval while leaders Maitland visit fifth-placed Butcher Boys at St John Oval.
Games kick-off at 3pm.
Meanwhile, in the NSW Women’s Premiership and CRL Newcastle will be without injured Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly for Saturday’s elimination semi-final encounter against Cronulla Caringbah at Leichhardt Oval less than a week after going down to the same opponents 26-16 in the last round.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.