MAITLAND coach Matt Thomas has warned the Blacks to be prepared to dig in against Nelson Bay at Marcellin Park on Saturday.
"The Bay play with the more heart than any team in the competition," Thomas said. "They are scrappers and will fight for 80 minutes. We are going to have to aim up. It's as simple as that."
Maitland have had a stop-start opening month to their campaign. They sit in fourth spot on 15 points from three wins and are fresh from a 63-13 demolition of Southern Beaches. However, they will be without James Hawkins (knee), Mick Howell (knee) and Josh McCormack (wrist).
Nelson Bay have gone win-loss-bye-win-loss to open the season.
The Gropers have named the same side that came back from 19-0 after 20 minutes against Hamilton to get within striking distance at 25-19, before fading to lose 42-19.
Chad Northcott sparked the comeback, but Thomas said the Gropers are anything but a one-man band.
"He is the one who links them all together and is a threat no matter where he is on the field," Thomas said.
"But he also has quality players around him. It's not just Chad you have to worry about any more. They are a great side."
"It's a massive game for us. We really have to start playing the way we are training. We have been very clunky and we have to get that out of our game if we are going to succeed."
Elsewhere Saturday, Va Talaileva will face the team he nearly joined when University tackle Hamilton at Passmore Oval.
Talaileva, who moved from Southern Beaches to Uni last week after training with the Hawks in the pre-season, was outstanding in his debut for the Students.
The flint-hard No.8 scored a try as the Students came from 19-0 down to lead Wanderers 22-19 at half-time, only to go down 36-22.
In the other game, Lake Macquarie will be out to flex their muscles against strugglers Southern Beaches at Ernie Calland Field.