HUNTER Wildfires enforcer George Noa will play with his eyes up and has vowed to give as good as he gets against former club Warringah at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
Text messages have been flowing this week between Noa and some of his old Rats teammates.
"There have been a few threats from some of the boys," Noa said laughing. "A bit of friendly banter mainly, from Wes Thomas (hooker) and winger Charlie Tupu. It will definitely be eyes up on Saturday, but I will be giving it to them as well."
From Melbourne, Noa spent last season at Warringah, where he made eight first grade appearances, but didn't take part in the 21-16 loss to Sydney University in the grand final.
The 23-year-old returned to Melbourne, where he spent two year in the Rising National Rugby Championship squad, before lured to Newcastle for another shot at the Shute Shield.
After spending 14 days in quarantine, Noa started at No.8 against Manly in second grade.
"Contact-wise I was slow to get into it," Noa said. "I injured my shoulder towards the end of last season and didn't do any contact for a while. Coming straight into contact here, hit me like a ton of bricks. That first game against Manly was tough."
Noa was elevated to first grade for the bruising 50-10 loss to Norths and has since been arguably the Wildfires' best.
"With the limited preparation is has been pretty hard trying to find our structure," Noa said. "The boys have done really well to gel in the short amount of time we have been together. It's a shame there is not another six games to go. If we had the time together we wanted, I reckon we could have been contenders for the top six."
The finals may be out of reach for the 11-th placed Wildfires, but they can end Warringah's hopes with a victory.
The Rats are in eighth spot on 22 points, nine behind sixth-placed Easts, and need to win their three remaining games to be a chance for the play-offs.
"It would be good to spoil it for them," Noa said. "They are a really structured team. We need to match them physically and be really aggressive with our line speed. Our lineout too has to be quick. If we are aggressive, we will have a big chance."
Wildfires coach Scott Coleman has developed a strong association with Warringah opposite Mike Ruthven and is expecting a desperate Rats outfit on Saturday.
"I'm in a group chat with Mike and a few other coaches," Coleman said. "I definitely bounce ideas off him. He is a good guy and has done nothing but help us.
"It is do or die for them. They have talent across the park. Sam Ward gets them on the front foot from No.8, then they have Josh Holmes (falfback), Ben Marr is a gun five-eighth and Seb Wileman at outside centre. They have some weapons.
"We need to match them up front and be aggressive. I'm expecting a big game from George. He is obviously match fit now and is confident in the team dynamic. He is just a natural footballer. He knows how to play, has a good football brain and is very physical."
Noa, the second youngest of five boys, was born and raised in Melbourne and is one of eight players who have moved from Victoria to play for the Wildfires.
"The guys have really taken to the challenge," Noa said. "We have been given an opportunity to play Shute Shield and have taken it with both hands. I have really enjoyed living here. The lifestyle is great and they are a great bunch of boys to play alongside.
"The coach and club have been looking after us in terms of work. It has been good not having to worry about that stuff. I would definitely look at staying here next season."
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