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Thackray: We'll still make top 8.

Byline: ROB GRIFFITHS

JAMIE THACKRAY is convinced his Crusaders team have what is necessary to still make the top eight this season and earn a berth in the end of season play-offs.

Crusaders head to the south of France on Saturday to take on bottom of the table Catalans Dragons (8pm), with their hopes of making the play-offs still looking long shots.

Dragons will be boosted by last Saturday's shock win over Grand Final aspirants St Helens, while Crusaders will be hoping to get their season back on track following three successive defeats, the last of which a 3-12 away loss to Huddersfield Giants.

But Thackray, 30, believes Crusaders were unlucky not to come away with the victory.

"The mood has been very positive this week," said Thackray said. "I think we went alright against Huddersfield and if a couple of things would have gone our way it might have been a different result.

"If you look at the tries Huddersfield scored, they got two interceptions and another came from when one of our guys lost the ball in contact which, when you look at, counts for 18 points. If you take those points away then it would have been 12-12 and if we can tidy up stuff like that we know we can give teams a game.

"We've had our ups and downs with injuries and stuff, just like any other team in Super League. Form wise we've been a bit up and down but I really believe we're not far off.

"There are still bits and bobs that we need to work on but we've shown we can compete with some good teams. We were in with a shout up until the 70th minute on Sunday but we sort of threw it away at the end."

Thackray has returned to the first team in recent weeks after a five-week lay-off recovering from throat surgery.

He turned out for Championship One side South Wales Scorpions before returning to the Crusaders first team against Warrington two weeks ago. And Thackray believes he is now back to his best.

"I obviously had a little op on my neck but I'm alright now," he added. "I played against Warrington and got a few minutes against Huddersfield and I've just got to keep chipping away now. But I am getting there. "Obviously I missed a few weeks training as well so it's going to take me a while to get back up to speed. But I've had some training under my belt now as well as a few hit ups against Warrington and Huddersfield. I'm just looking forward to Sunday now because it is going to be another big test against Catalans.

"It's horrible watching form the sidelines, especially when they're winning. It's a nice feeling getting good wins against Leeds and Bradford and it is frustrating watching from the sidelines. Like any player you want to be out on the pitch playing with your team mates."

A win against Catalans would see Crusaders right back in contention for the play-offs, something Thackray believes is attainable as the Wrexham side have a better run in than many of their rivals.

He said: "There are seven games left and we've played all the top teams now and we've beaten a few of them.

"If we get the little things right we can beat anyone on our day. We've shown that already but as I've said we've got to tidy a few bits and bobs up and take it each game as it comes.

"We've never talked about it but we want to win them all. If we can get four or five wins that would great for us. If we look at who we've got left they are all winnable games and a few of those teams are also scrapping around for the top eight as well so it's going to be interesting.

"I think the play-offs is definitely a realistic target for us, we've got a game in hand as well which could make the difference come the end of the season. It's about whoever wants it the most now.

"Obviously I'm looking forward to the Catalans game. I love a physical contest, even more so when it's warm because you can move them around a bit more.

"When we played them down here back in March, it was chucking it down and it became a real bashathon. It's going to be warm over there and hopefully our forwards are a bit pacier and mobile than Catalans. They played really well last week against St Helens so it should be a good one."

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Jamie Thackray takes the ball into contact against Catalans Dragons in the Super League meeting
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 15, 2010
Words:787
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