MAITLAND coach Matt Thomas couldn't have been more frank about the battle with an unpredictable Lake Macquarie at traditional graveyard Walters Park on Saturday.
"They don't need to win, but we do," Thomas declared.
The Blacks sit in third spot on 54 points, a point ahead of Merewether, who have the bye this round and receive no competition points.
Maitland have the week off in the final round and a slip-up against the Roos would open the door for the Greens to jump to third and get two bites of the cherry in the finals.
Fourth spot means a sudden-death showdown with Lake Macquarie.
"If we lose, we can drop to fourth," Thomas said.
"It is going to be a tough game.
"Lake Macquarie are starting to show some form. I think they are the quiet achievers of the competition.
"We have to start showing some fluency in the way we play. We are too hot and cold.
"They are big, they have skilled players, they have a lot of guys coming back from injury. They are a dangerous side. We understand that, but so are we."
The Blacks are coming off a 43-14 win over cellar dwellers Southern Beaches.
They welcome back halfback Max Stafford, centre Chris Logan, while Dan Runchell comes in at hooker after the departure last week of Phil Bradford to Spain.
"Max had a few niggles so we decided to rest him and Chris Logan was laid low with the flu and came off the bench," Thomas said.
In a further boost, fly-half Josh McCormack has been cleared of a serious shoulder injury and will play.
"Josh copped a stinger and is fine," Thomas said.
Maitland won a rugged encounter 21-14 in round nine at Marcellin Park.
The Blacks led 14-0 but needed a late try from Pat Batey after a break from prop Harrison Chapman to seal the win.
Chapman and No.8 Travis Brooke were this week named in the NSW Country squad to play at the division two national rugby championships next month in Adelaide.
Brooke has been in outstanding form since returning from shoulder and knee issues. Chapman anchors a scrum that dominated the Roos in round nine.
Ray Alo scored a try for the Roos in the last encounter, however he will be absent in a new-look side that runs out on Saturday after receiving a 12-week suspension for referee abuse.
Issac Tremel has been named at 12 inside Kirisome Laulala, who was the Roos' best in the 43-26 defeat to premiers Hamilton.
The Hawks can wrap up a fifth straight minor premiership with a win over the University at Bernie Curran Oval.
Connor Mulhearn gets a chance at fly-half, while Jack Chillingworth comes in for Joe Akkersdyk in the second row.
In other games, Wanderers will defend the Hawthorne Cup against Southern Beaches at No.2 Sportsground and Nelson Bay travel to Singleton.