RUGBY LEAGUE - ILLAWARRA COAL LEAGUE
Collegians coach Reece Simmonds is resigned to being without his biggest names for the rest of the season as call-ups to the Illawarra Cutters decimate his roster.
Kyle Eather hasn't played for Collies since he scored a hat-trick of tries in the Dogs' 34-24 victory over Wests while winger Tyron Cranston and prop Charlie Faingaa also spent the bulk of the season with the Cutters.
The loss of star five-eighth Sam Duggan, who hasn't played in Collies colours since spearheading a 50-26 victory over Thirroul in round six, has hurt the most.
A season-ending knee injury to Michael Witt and the departure of Sam Williams to the English Super League makes Duggan's return to the Coal League increasingly unlikely.
"I'm not expecting to see those guys who've gone to the Cutters back now," Simmonds said.
"There's four in there and I don't expect to see them for the remainder of the year."
The Dogs problems will be compounded when they lose skipper Jarrod Thompson and fearsome back-rower Blake Williamson to the Country Firsts tour of Hawaii.
With prop Jarrod Hickey still a few weeks away from a return, Simmonds said the two-week representative break ahead of their match with Helensburgh on Saturday was a godsend.
"We needed it. We needed to sort a few things out and work out where we're heading," Simmonds said.
"Sammy was controlling the game for us so with him gone we've had to change a few things.
"We've needed to change our structure and the way we play a little bit to accommodate the side we have and work out a pattern that suits those players best.
"I don't think we're out of the title race at all.
"I'm still very confident with the group we've got it's just the structure and the way we play needed to be tinkered with."
While the defending premiers worked hard over the two-week break, his counterpart in Saturday's match, Ryan Powell, gave his table-topping squad a break though they contributed seven players to Illawarra's successful Country Championship defence.
"I gave the boys the whole two weeks off to get away from footy so hopefully everyone's freshened up and ready for the last round," Powell said.
"It was good for the rep guys to get away from the team and do their representative duties so hopefully it's a good thing and they come back ready to go. They're still the reigning premiers so it'll be game on on Saturday."