The Maitland Blacks need to get on top early and dominate if they are to beat Wanderers in Saturday's Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union qualifying final, according to coach Matt Thomas.
Thomas said an already demanding challenge against the Wanderers had been made even more difficulty by the week's delays in the finals after Newcastle City Council closed No.2 Sportsground for play on the weekend.
It also means that if the Blacks make the grand final they will be without star players prop Harrison Chapman and No.8 Travis Brooke who are in the NSW Country squad which plays in Adelaide on the new grand final weekend.
The Blacks have also had to postpone their presentation night which was set for Friday, September 27.
"It has affected us massively," Thomas said.
"We had the bye in the final round, so it has been three weeks since we have played a game."
Thomas is adamant Maitland could have hosted both semi-finals last weekend.
"We would have been able to get a ground ready if they gave us the nod," he said. "We would have done anything to play. It was a big call but that is why we have a board. There are no winners. I don't think their are any winners for the NHRU either. Next time have a plan B.
"There is no point going on about it now. You just have to get on with it.
"It's certainly worked against us. We were coming off a bye and the benefits of the week's break as far as fitness opposed to maintaining momentum are now gone.
"We're without a game for two weeks, they have a chance to recuperate from a really tough game and we meet them on their home ground.
"It makes it very important for us to dominate the game, throw them out of any rhythm and maintain our advantage from the start.
"A close slog will favour them at the end of the game in terms of game fitness.
"Our leaders are aware of how important it is that they set the tone from the start of the game and I expect them to lead the way."
The Blacks have a full house of teams in action in finals over the weekend.
First grade lead the way against Wanderers in the qualifying final, from 3.15pm, with the winner to progress to the major semi-final against minor premiers Hamilton and the first shot at making the grand final.
The Maitland campaign starts on Friday when the Blacks meet Easts in the fourth grade social semi-finals at Townson Oval from 8.05pm.
Reserve grade, third grade and the women's team are all in action in elimination finals on Sunday.
"From a club point of view this is the first time we've had every grade in the finals for a long time," Thomas.
"It's a huge achievement for the club and says so much about the way we have built the success we are having in first grade.
"It's a whole club achievement, not just a team. We have great depth and have blooded more throughout the year with injuries but it has left us in good stead."
Thomas said it had taken all year but he at last had a full squad to pick from with wing Chris Martin available for first grader. Teenager Sam Parkinson will return to second grade.