HAMILTON coach Scott Coleman is normally "sold" on the side he wants and the style of game the Hawks need to play to be playing in the finals by this stage of the season.
It has been the blueprint for the Hawks' four straight premierships.
With a third of the campaign remaining, Hamilton are in a familiar position. A clinical 43-15 win over Nelson Bay at Hawkins Oval on Saturday ensured they stayed top of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union pile on 44 points alongside Merewether, who have played one more game.
Coleman, despite the continued success, is anything but settled on a line-up.
"We have always been pretty sold on what team we want five or six weeks out from the finals," Coleman said. "This year from one-to-15, there are two players for every position. It is a good position to be in as a coach. We spoke about it two weeks ago at training. It could be a week-to-week thing right through to the finals."
On Saturday, Peter Maxwell, Geraint Weaver, Noah Church, Bryce Madden and Scottish import Jason Hill came off the bench.
"Pete Maxwell was a fresh reserve and he hates it. He wants to start," Coleman said. "It is creating a massive headache. It has been the hardest year I have had in terms of selections. It will come down to form, but we will also look at certain positions for certain game. Against the bigger packs, we might try and match them with size. If we want to go with speed we will go with speed. It will depend on our game plan."
It was the Hawks forwards, who grabbed the ascendancy against the Bay.
The Gropers started on the front foot and had a dozen phases in the Hawks' red zone.
Hamilton absorbed the pressure, worked their way down the other end and struck. Tiueti Asi picked the ball up from the back of the scrum, went down the short side and laid off for halfback Zach Sykes to dive over.
Five minutes later lock Chris Nagy crashed over from the back of a ruck. Breakaway Liam Bowden then charged down a Chad Northcott kick and all of a sudden it was 17-0.
Adam Edwards hit back from close range for the Gropers, but the revival was short.
Pete Bakarich and Chris Ale worked a move at the front of the lineout for the former to race 30 metres.
When Joe Akkersdyk galloped 30 metre to score and make it 29-5 early in the second half, the horse had bolted.
The loss leaves the Bay in sixth spot on 25 points, 11 behind Lake Macquarie, who overpowered University 39-12 at Bernie Curran Oval.
Prop Wendell Wilson scored a double and Dylan Heins, who returned from a broken wrist, also crossed in the six-tries-to-two triumph.
At Ernie Calland Oval, Merewether put a major dent in Maitland's minor-premiership hopes with a resounding 40-7 victory.
At Rugby Park, winger Tim Marsh ran in four tries and kicked landed eight conversions for a person tally of 36 points as Wanderers embarrassed Singleton 98-0.