MEREWETHER co-coach Mick Gill has noted a difference in Wanderers this season.
"They look like they have gotten back to what they stand for as a club," Gill said. "The players have bought into that and they are playing a good style of footy."
That is the closest you well get to a compliment out of Townson Oval about their arch enemies.
Another chapter in the fiercest rivalry in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union will be written on Saturday.
First takes on second at the unofficial opening of the new multi million dollar 'Green Room' at Merewether's home ground. Good luck getting to the bar.
"We can't wait," Wanderers coach Dan Beckett said. "It is always a great day and a big occasion. It's a game that both clubs mark on the calendar because of the history that has gone before. The new Green Room only adds to the occasion. It certainly ties in with what we are trying to do in terms of educating the young guys about what it means to play for Wanderers."
Merewether have opened the season with five straight wins. Three of those have been by three points or less.
Although Gill insists the Greens are playing "dumb rugby" at times, they keep finding a way to win.
"We are still not happy with the overall performances but we are sticking in there," Gill said. "We are playing in 10-to-15 minute blocks."
Wanderers, after close losses in the opening two games, have strung three wins together, including a 24-12 triumph over premiers Hamilton a fortnight ago. That win was rewarded with the Hawthorne Cup, which is on the line at Townson Oval.
"Dan [Beckett] has brought a lot more pride to the jumper," Gill said. "Blokes are there because they want to be at the club. Ben Ham is leading the way up front. Physicality-wise, their forward pack is aiming up and they have speed out wide."
For the Greens, Jay Strachan (shoulder) and Billy Freeman (knee) will be given until Saturday to prove their fitness.
Sam Rouse has been outstanding at fullback in the absence of Strachan.
"Rousey is another attacking weapon like Strachan," Gill said. "They are different types of players but we still have that threat at 15. We haven't lost much in terms of attack, but obviously Strachan brings that leadership as well."
Luke Simmons returns at fullback for Wanderers, but Dan Kevill, who played his first game in more than two years in the 36-22 win over Uni, will play off the bench.
"We will be full strength on Saturday and won't have any excuses in regards to preparation," Beckett said. "Merewether are a good side who play for 80 minutes. That's one thing we have learnt; the game is never done. It will be no different this Saturday. They play a very similar style to us. It will be interesting to see how two worlds collide."