The Queanbeyan Blues are gearing up for their sternest test of the 2019 Canberra Raiders Cup First Grade season this weekend, when they take on the West Belconnen Warriors at Raiders Belconnen.
The Blues have had a mixed start to the year, with a 50-12 win over the Belconnen United Sharks in round one and a 28-28 draw against the Queanbeyan Kangaroos in round two, before the Easter weekend and a bye gave them two weeks off.
The fortnight of rest will have done the Blues some good, which will be particularly important as Wests are fresh from a two-point victory over the Kangaroos last weekend.
This match is more important than just the points available. It will also help to define the top of the ladder for the 2019 season.
Currently, the Blues sit in third place, behind the Goulburn Bulldogs in first and the Tuggeranong Bushrangers in second, while Wests are in fourth with one less point.
This fixture will present a good yardstick by which the Blues can measure their standing in the early season rankings. Wests are in a similar position, having lost to Tuggeranong in the first round before bouncing back with a big win over the Gungahlin Bulls in the second round.
Both teams are vying to solidify their presence in the top three, and the Blues will be particularly driven to make up for their lacklustre season in 2018, which saw them finish sixth on the ladder, a far cry from their usual dominance in years past.
Working in the Blues' favour is the good form of captain/coach, Terry Campese.
The former Canberra Raider has been scoring points with ease so far in 2019, and currently has one try and 11 goals to his name from the two rounds played.
The rest of the Blues lineup has contributed relatively evenly to the scoring in the first two games. Of the nine players who have scored tries, Isaiah Latu is the only one with three to his name.
Meanwhile, the reserve grade Blues side will also take on Wests this weekend, in a match which carries similar importance to that of First Grade.
The Warriors are unbeaten in reserves, while the Blues have a win and a loss from their first two games and are sitting at number four, two places below their upcoming opponents.
In the league tag, the match between the Warriors and the Blues is a play-off for the top spot on the ladder.
Both teams are on six points, with the Warriors in front by virtue of a superior win/loss ratio.
Finally, the Under 19s Blues will play the North Canberra Bears on Saturday. Queanbeyan, at the top of the ladder, are the heavy favourites for that clash as the Bears are currently seventh out of eight.
All matches will take place this Saturday, May 4.