TURVEY Park leader Tom Yates is confident he'll be fit to return for Saturday's crucial clash with Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes after admitting he shouldn't have played in their season opener.
Yates hasn't been sighted since the round one loss to Collingullie-Glenfield Park due to a sportsman's hernia which hampered the back end of his pre-season.
After pulling up sore after Tuesday's training session, Yates expects physio and a light session on Thursday to be enough to get him across the line for the match at Mangoplah Sportsground.
Turvey Park and the Goannas both have a 4-3 record before the clash between fourth and fifth, with the winner set to all but guarantee themselves a finals berth.
In a further boost to Turvey Park, ruckman Shaun Allan is expected to return from a hamstring injury suffered in the round five win over Griffith.
" I've pulled up a bit sore at the moment, we'll see what happens over the next couple of days but I think I will (play)," Yates said on Wednesday.
"I did a fair session last Thursday and the Thursday prior, it's probably kicking more than anything that hurts it.
"It gradually got worse in the pre season and I shouldn't have played round one, I'm pretty sure I'll play but if I feel like I do today, there's probably no point in me playing.
"It would be a good game to get the four points. We're trying to beat a top five side, we haven't done that yet (this year)."
Matt Ness is yet to play this year with plantar fasciitis and won't be back against the Goannas, while Allan has one last box to tick to make his return.
Defender Harry Woods is also set to be back from a shoulder injury which kept him out of the last start victory against Wagga Tigers.
"Shaun will go to the physio on Thursday to make sure but we're expecting he'll play. If the physio says it's touch and go though, we won't risk it," Bulldogs coach Michael Mazzocchi said.
"We'll be getting back to pretty close to full strength I think.
"It's that time of year where it's not do or die, but our three losses so far have been to the top three teams.
"We want to beat some of these teams we'll be playing if we make finals. It's that competitive instinct now, we've done reasonably well to this point."
While the Bulldogs sit comfortably inside the top five, they are yet to prove themselves against the top teams.
But Mazzocchi is confident they will build nicely into the back end of the year.
"That doesn't worry me. I don't want us playing our best footy right now, I'm happy we're in the position we're in and we still hopefully have some good footy to come," he said.
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