GREATER Northern Tigers under-16 prop Mark Simon faces a fitness battle to be right for Sunday's CRL Country Championships semi-final against the Western Rams in Forster.
The Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School forward suffered a knee injury in his side's last round loss to the Northern Rivers Titans in Armidale.
Simon, 16, attended Tigers training in Tamworth on Saturday but looked on forlornly with his right knee heavily strapped.
He has more physio on it this week in a last-minute bid to make it to the semi-final.
Tigers coach Muswellbrook's Steve Haylen talked to him about the injury and is hoping his young and talented front-rower might be right to play.
"I will give you right up to kick-off to make it," he told the youngster.
"I will carry you as an 18th man if I have to."
Haylen then ripped the rest of the Tigers squad through a searching 90-minute session, both fitness and ball work.
He was delighted with the effort from the squad and believes the young side can upset the unbeaten Rams.
"We'll train again at Forster on Saturday," Haylen said.
At this stage, he has Gunnedah's Ryan Kelly-Payne pencilled in for a starting spot if Simon is unable to make it.
Greater Northern Tigers under-16 squad
Daltyn McCartney (Denman), Latrell Newman (Moree), Campbell Watchirs (Inverell), Blake Johnston (Scone), Brayden Talbot-Hatch (Gunnedah), Ethan Antzakles (Farrer), Pichai Dixon (Aberdeen), Mark Simon (Farrer), Sam Fechner (Scone), Ryan Kelly-Payne (Gunnedah), Hayden Bull (Scone), Luke Smith (Scone), Jock Brazel (c -Moree), Riley Reid (Dungowan), Lachlan Smith (Farrer), Jeff Harvey (Narrabri), Nicholas Laurie (Scone), Clint Aitken (Dungowan). Coach - Steve Haylen, manager - Mick Schmiedel, trainers - (yellow) Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, (blue) Anthony Cubillo, (orange) Daniel Swan