THE challenge for fifth place on the Central Highlands Rugby League ladder will be determined tonight in a playoff match between the Emerald Cowboys and Bluff Rabbitohs.
Central Highlands Rugby League president Pat Booker said the tie for fifth position was unexpected and had not happened in recent times.
"Both ended up on 14 points. That's why they are going into a playoff. It is just local rules," Booker explained.
"They will be fighting for their lives. It should be a great game."
The game will be in Blackwater as Booker explained it must be played on a neutral ground with the match starting at 7pm.
"Gate entry is free … whoever wins goes into the elimination final against Middlemount at McIndoe Park on Saturday," she said.
In round 14 at the weekend, Bluff lost to the minor premiers, the Clermont Bears, 36-30, while the Emerald Cowboys soundly beat the Dysart Bulls at home, 40-4.
The result from the weekend left both teams on 14 points but Bluff had the upper hand with their for- and-against points.
"As of Friday night we thought, if it came to for and against, we would be short by 16 points roughly," Cowboys coach RJ Stewart said.
"Coming out of Saturday, a few boys were disappointed not to make the finals considering we had beaten three of the top four sides (that are) in the finals.
"But come Monday morning CH (rugby league) said teams tying for fifth had to play off for finals.
"To have another chop at it is good for the players, supporters and sponsors."
Celebrations for whoever wins tonight's playoff will be short-lived, as the winning team will have to front up for their third game in just seven days against a well-rested Middlemount Panthers on Saturday in Emerald.
"It is pleasing in a way to get a chance in the finals," Stewart said.
"We felt we would be competitive if we made the finals.
"We get the opportunity to prove that now.
"A few boys were happy and are now keen for the chance to prove themselves."
Talking ahead of the Cowboys' final training session last night, Stewart said the team would focus on fine-tuning skills and working on their structure.
"We will be working on cohesion with key players," he said.
"It is a case of trying to rustle up a team now."
Stewart said injury-wise the Cowboys were fine but suspected fatigue would play a big factor in tonight's game.
"Fatigue may be an issue. Backing up after Saturday night, hopefully we can take the same side," he said.
Not counting his chickens before they hatch, Stewart said tonight was all that was on the cards and he was taking each game as it came.
"Middlemount is hitting form at the moment. We will be playing for a home ground semi-final but it's a big ask - a three-day turnaround."
Stewart said a disadvantage was the quick turnaround but if his team could overcome that, they had the chance to win tonight.
Not only are they playing for Cowboys' pride - he said he would like to send off some of the players on a positive note.
"A couple of boys are finishing their season with the Cowboys. It's a chance to win and play in the finals," he said.
"For the young group of players, it will be good to play in the final for their development.
"It will be a big thing. Nobody likes not playing finals.
"We know we can beat three of the four sides in the finals. We will go into the finals confident we have the opportunity to go all the way."
The Bluff Rabbitohs spokesperson was not available for comment.
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