Lions keen to put a bit of space on rivals

MULWALA co-coach Ben James admits Saturday’s clash with rival Barooga is vital to the Lions’ season as the Murray league starts to heat up.

Eight teams are log-jammed in the finals race after nine rounds, with just two wins separating leaders Echuca United from eighth-placed Moama.

Mulwala and Barooga are both locked in the middle, on six wins, and James conceded Saturday’s contest was crucial.

“It’s a big game for us,” James confessed.

“If we win, we hold on.

“If we don’t, it probably puts us back down with the pack a bit.

“We really want to pinch this one.”

In a blow to the Lions’ chances of doing so, they will again be without star ball-winner Patrick Fittock because of a hamstring strain.

The former SANFL young gun faces another couple of weeks on the sidelines.

Former Richmond livewire Troy Taylor is a 50-50 prospect of playing against the Hawks this week because of knee soreness.

“Barooga is probably in a similar situation to us,” James said.

“They’ve got a relatively new side and a couple of injuries too.

“It would have been good if both sides were full- strength.

“We’ve really missed a couple of our crucial players in the last couple of matches.”

But James said that wasn’t entirely a bad thing.

He said the Lions had taken plenty out of their recent losses to Rumbalara and Finley.

“Hopefully we can learn a bit from them and the young guys take some experience out of it,” James said.

Things don’t get any easier for Mulwala after Saturday’s clash, with matches against Echuca United and Deniliquin Rams to follow.

In other matches this week, a resurgent Rumbalara faces a test when it hosts the reigning premier.

Echuca United again looks the team to beat.

The Rams should continue their mid-year revival with a comfortable win against battling Cobram.

Nathalia should prove too strong for Congupna, further tightening things in the top six.

Moama hosts Finley and Tongala travels to Numurkah.