Five teams. Three spots left. One finals series.
That's the equation with two Newcastle Rugby League rounds remaining.
Wests (24 points) have already sewn up the minor premiership and defending champions Souths (18) have done enough to secure a play-off position while at the other end of the ladder Macquarie (8) can't make it.
This leaves Maitland (14), Cessnock, Central (13), Kurri (12) and Lakes (10) in a race to stay in premiership contention.
Pickers captain Sam Anderson wants to ensure his side are vying for the 2019 title and not slip out of the top five.
A win away against Macquarie at Lyall Peacock Field on Saturday would help that cause and potentially help Maitland finish as high as third, meaning a second bite at the cherry and avoiding an elimination encounter first up in finals.
"It's a tight competition," Anderson said.
"We're third at the moment but if we lost our next two, depending on other results, we could miss out on the five. It's a big game for us and they [Macquarie] will want to finish the season on high at home.
"We're going to have to be up for it and we need to be if we want to play finals footy."
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Anderson said one of the chief motivating factors for Maitland, who had last weekend off without any catch-up games, was relinquishing a 22-6 lead and conceding 26 unanswered points in the second half during a 32-22 loss to Central at St John Oval on August 3.
"To be honest, we're still pretty disappointed about that," the Pickers skipper said.
"The second half against Central, after leading 22-6, was ordinary and that was their third game in the space of a week.
"It was a good opportunity for us to lock in a spot in the top five but we didn't do it.
"We have to concentrate on playing 80 minutes and competing for everything."
Former NRL forward Anderson, who returned home to the Hunter after stints away playing in Queensland and Sydney, now has four games back under his belt after missing six rounds with a broken foot.
According to Maitland coach Luke Dorn the Pickers will be without Australian Schoolboys representative Cooper Jenkins (ankle) and centre Marco Delapena while playmaker Tyler Perrin and Scott Williams were both expected to play.
Macquarie have named Daniel Abraham to return from a knee injury while Todd Hurrell has been listed at lock.
Elsewhere in round 15 on Saturday, Souths welcome back prop Cameron King and second-rower Jake Lawrence when the Lions visit the Bulldogs at Kurri Sportsground.
Lakes have cleared centre Jarron Costelloe, who suffered an elbow injury last weekend, as the Seagulls attempt to keep their finals hopes alive against in-form Central at Cahill Oval.
The Goannas host Wests at Cessnock Sportsground.
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