The Maitland Pickers can go a long way to securing a top three finish with victory against Central Newcastle at St Johns Oval on Saturday.
The Pickers have beaten the Butcher Boys in their two encounters this season and after a strong performance in last week's 42-18 win against Macquarie are favourites.
It is a crucial game for Maitland who could establish a four-point break on their chief rival for a top three finish Kurri Kurri, who are hosting Western Suburbs on Saturday.
Maitland are on equal points with South Newcastle, but the Lions have two games in hand and a superior points differential so it is unlikely the Pickers can rise above them with them with three games to play.
The Pickers are likely to be boosted by the return of powerful centre Marco Delapena who sat on the boundary last week after feeling a twinge in his hamstring.
Souths travel to take on Macquarie on Sunday. The Scorpions (eight) are three points behind fifth-placed Cessnock (11 points) and must win their remaining three games to be any chance of playing.
The Goannas are away to Lakes United on Sunday and it is hard to say how they will react to the news that their coach Todd Edwards has opted to quit at the end of the season citing difficulties with how the club was run.
Ladder: Western Suburbs 22, South Newcastle 14, Maitland 14, Kurri Kurri 12, Cessnock 11, Central Newcastle 9; Macquarie 8, Lakes United 8.