By Beth Newman
SPRINGWOOD V MAGPIES
Springwood faces its biggest test in almost two months, as it prepares to take on the Magpies at Lowe Oval tomorrow for a grand final spot.
The Pumas have not played a top six side since June, when they outlasted Surfers at home, but coach, Tony King, said they would be ready for the defending premiers.
“We go in as underdogs and that’s a fair call,” King said.
“You can only play with what your opposition present and our last four games gave us something to learn from.”
“I’m well aware the pace of the game will be a lot higher and intensity a lot higher and we can only prepare ourselves for that.”
King watched the Magpies’ clinical efforts at Salk Oval last weekend and said his charges would be ready for the physicality of the Sherwood side.
“They played awesome football, they were strong in the midfield and their forward line was very potent,” he said.
“I left there knowing we’re up against a club that’s used to playing finals and does their pre-season every year looking to win a grand final.
“It’s a big challenge for us but I’m really looking forward to it.”
It’s not just the 22 out there that will feel the moment tomorrow, with the entire Pumas club getting behind the side to continue their winning ways, after an incredible turnaround this season, King said.
“Where we are now, to go one step further would be such a great thing for the people that work so hard,” he said.
“They nearly had to close their doors in ’08 and the club didn’t win any games then. The football president and football manager have guided these young boys through that.”
“It will be very emotional if we do get in and it’ll be pretty good for footy all round.”
The Pumas bring Jake Furfaro back into their side this week, while key forward, Ethan Reading will be given until tonight to prove his fitness, with a quad concern.
The Magpies have made only one change to their side from their win over Palm Beach, with Gabe McKinnon coming in for James Fox.
Springwood beat the Magpies in their only regular season match up, but Magpies coach, Craig St John, said there was almost nothing to take out of that Round eight match.
“We‘ve got 11 new players so we’ll be playing to our strengths,” he said.
While they haven’t met since May, St John said his side was well aware of the Pumas’ talents.
“They’re a good crew and it’s so hard to shut anyone in particular down, so we’ll be looking at their whole group,” he said.
The side won’t be dwelling on their electrifying opening week performance, but St John said it certainly gave the Magpies confidence.
“That’s creates a little bit of enthusiasm but that’s history now,” he said.
“We’ve got two more opponents before the big one so we’ll just target those and let the history take care of itself.”
St John said he hoped they wouldn’t need their second double chance in as many weeks.
“We want to go straight through.”
PALM BEACH v SURFERS
They’ve already notched up one upset this final series, and now Surfers Paradise is contemplating a second, as they prepare to combat Palm Beach at Salk Oval on Sunday.
The Demons gritted out a win against the Gorillas in a home elimination final last weekend, but will have to lift to compete with a Palm Beach side looking to rebound from a week one embarrassment.
A fortnight ago, the Lions made easy work of the Demons in their Round 16 match up, but Demons coach, Beau Zorko, is not worried about the past going into the sudden-death semi.
“Finals series are a strange thing and anything can happen at this time of year,” he said.
“The possibilities are endless.”
And, as their first week win showed, the Demons are pretty comfortable with the underdog tag, Zorko said.
“I love it,” he said.
“Showing the character to bounce back from two heavier losses was certainly testament to the group and it gave us a lot of confidence.
“We’re under no illusions that they’re the red hot favourites and they’ll be out to bounce back and prove they’re the very good football side that we all know that they are.”
The Demons look a tad more dangerous than they did against the Gorillas, despite making only one change to that side.
Regan Finlay makes a surprise comeback from an ankle injury as the only inclusion, but there is plenty of improvement to come from players like Ryan Dienjes.
Dienjes played his first full game in three weeks against the Gorillas, after a concussion and ankle injury kept him out of the final two regular season matches and with that under his belt, the 22 year-old’s say on the game should increase exponentially on Sunday.
Zorko said it was just good to have him back in the side.
“He got some really important touches in the game and that certainly boosted his confidence from what looked a pretty horrific injury,” he said.
“For him to come back in that time is a testament to his professionalism and his preparation,” he said.
Forward, Trent McIntyre, overcame a hamstring concern during the week and is fully fit to play.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Surfers side on Sunday will be where Jason Torney plays.
Torney was exceptional as a loose defender early in the elimination final, but has been named at centre half-forward.
Zorko was keeping his cards close to his chest, saying that Torney would be lining up in attack for Sunday’s opening bounce.
“He’ll start forward ,” he said.
“The beauty of our side is we have a lot of options and he’s not the only one we can get to play that role.
“Many players have the football smarts to play that role – we’ll analyse as the game unfolds as to whether we need that until the game unfolds and wont’ make a decision until then.
While the Demons have been relatively stable this week, Palm Beach will be massively boosted by five inclusions into their side.
Clint Kelly, Kristen Higgs, Tim Fielding, Tyson Dyer and Matt Carroll all come into the team to play this weekend, bringing crucial experience to the Lions side, coach, Daryn Cresswell said.
“We’ve got some experience back into the group and we certainly missed that last week in a big finals game,” he said.
“As well as that class that they bring, it lifts the guys around them, knowing that they’re outside beside them.”
The inclusion of Kelly and Dyer is especially important, in the absence of Jackson Emblem (foot), providing the Lions’ with strong marking targets, which they lacked against the Magpies.
Despite admitting the cautious route didn’t quite work out against the Magpies, Cresswell said he would not take any undue risks with players, keeping Emblem Shane Hutchinson (foot) on ice for another week.
“I don’t see the point in taking a massive risk at this stage,” he said.
“If you risk players, you can get players going down and in finals, the game can get away from you.
“We made a conscious effort, to have 18 players that are 100% fit and that we know can play a game of footy.”
Despite their domination of the Demons in Round 16, Cresswell said he would not be taking Surfers lightly.
“They run the ball well, they’ve got smart players, so it was no surprise to me that they got up last weekend,” he said.
“With Dienjes, Torney and D’orazio, they’re a different outfit to what we came up against a few weeks back.”
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