This weekend marks the start of a testing period for the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs in the Newcastle Rugby League season.
The Bulldogs have been impressive in the opening rounds and are unbeaten on top of the competition table after wins against Central Newcastle, two-time defending premiers Maitland, South Newcastle and Lakes United.
But during the next three weeks the tri-colours face off against Wyong, Western Suburbs and Cessnock.
Western Suburbs have dropped just the one match this season, while Coalfields rivals Cessnock are also unbeaten but the Bulldogs challenging task begins at Morry Breen Oval on Saturday when they take on the Wyong Roos.
The Roos, semi-finalists last season and 2009 champions, have been disappointing so far this season and have just the one win next to their name but a road trip to the Central Coast is always a difficult prospect for any team in the league.
“We have three tough games coming up back to back to back, but in saying that all our games this year have been tough,” Bulldogs player-coach George Ndaira said.
“Every team we have played has turned up and given us a good run so hopefully that holds us in good stead for the next three weeks.”
As far as the Bulldogs line up is concerned the 17-man squad remains relatively unchanged.
Mitch Cullen stays at fullback, Todd Polglase and Shannon Tanner will start on the wings, Scott Dunn and Simon Craig will play in the centres while Mitch Steel and Ndaira will partner in the halves.
Jesse Royal, Daniel Abraham and Reegan Tanner lead an all-star NRL lined forward pack while Greg Sharp has been named on the bench alongside Adam Peek, Steven Blakemore.
Sharp returns to the Bulldogs after some time off and he replaces Alfred Whaleboat.
The match kicks off at 5pm.
In other round five fixtures, Cessnock host Western Suburbs in the match of the round on Saturday afternoon, the Port Stephens Sharks travel to Townson Oval to take on South Newcastle on the same day, while Lakes United go head-to-head with Macquarie at Cahill Oval on Sunday.
KURRI KURRI: 1. MITCH CULLEN, 2. SHANNON TANNER, 3. SCOTT DUNN, 4. SIMON CRAIG, 5. TODD POLGLASE, 6. MITCH STEEL, 7. GEORGE NDAIRA, 8. JESSE ROYAL (C), 9. BEN WYBORN, 10. MICK CAMPTON, 11. REEGAN TANNER, 12. DANIEL ABRAHAM, 13. JAY STEVENS, 14. STEVEN BLAKEMORE, 15. JUSTIN PETERKIN, 16. ADAM PEEK, 17. GREG SHARP
NEWCASTLE RUGBY LEAGUE Ladder (round 4) Cessnock 8, Kurri Kurri 8, Macquarie 6*, Western Suburbs 6, Maitland 4*, South Newcastle 2, Wyong 2, Central Newcastle 2, Lakes 0, Port Stephens 0, *Maitland v Macquarie postponed to June 9