By Beth Newman
It might be the last week of the regular season, but for the Allied Pickfords Cup there’s a sense of back to the future in Round 16.
All teams are facing off against their round one opponents, and there is almost as much to play for as there was fifteen weeks ago.
With one week until finals, it is a non-finals side that could potentially have the most say in what goes down in week one.
Sandgate face Springwood in their last match of the season, and a Hawks win could push the Pumas off the top of the ladder, giving the minor premiership to the Lions, as long as they beat Surfers.
Hawks coach, Rob Dickfos, is well aware of what a win would do and said his side would be doing everything possible to ensure 2013 finished on a high note.
“Obviously their performances have been pretty good and fairly consistent and we certainly know we’ve improved (since round one),” Dickfos said.
“We know we’re capable of being competitive and pushing sides to the limit and that’s certainly our intention tomorrow.”
The Hawks have shown they can mix with the Pumas, going down by only a kick in that round one clash, and have developed a reputation for their fighting spirit all season.
Sandgate will be outsized for the most part by the Pumas tomorrow, but Dickfos said that was nothing new for the Hawks and it certainly wouldn’t put them off.
“What’ll be important is that guys like Steve Brown, Tyson Allsop and Sam Lubke who are our bigger players, they need to stand up and that’ll be the key to use being competitive,” he said.
“If our big blokes do the right thing by playing hard and being aggressive, then it’s definitely within our capabilities to open up space for our quicker runners.”
Queensland Under-16 player Josh Elmslie is out of the side, heading back to the U18s for finals, while Trent Fuller returns from a week’s absence.
Reserves player, Ryan Boden makes his senior debut for the Hawks, with Brad Bailey also elevated.
Springwood are still without Albert Proud, Jake Furfaro and Mitchell Vasterink, but they have proven their depth in recent weeks, a comforting thought for coach, Tony King.
“We’ve had some really consistent performances from the young players,” he said.
“In the past, we’ve had some problems with young fellas being up and down every week, but they’ve been the big improvement in the group.”
After a lean few years, King said it was a strange feeling being in top spot with one week to go, but they wouldn’t be giving it up easy tomorrow.
“It’s a bit of a surreal feeling, a lot of people around the club probably don’t fully realise the situation we’re in.
“We realise the importance of having that week off and get rid of niggly injuries but we’ve just got to get over the line tomorrow.
King said they would be ready for the Hawks, after such a massive challenge to open their season.
“We realise it’s going to be a tough encounter, they’ve played pretty well,” he said.
“We respect the fact they’re going to come out with nothing to lose, so it’s important to us to keep our heads and play like we know we can.”
The Hawks’ most damaging players are on King’s radar, with Tom Overington, the Dickfos brothers and Jono Giles certain to be watched closely in tomorrow’s clash.
While the Lowe Oval clash, starting at 4:15, will barely have started by the time Palm Beach finishes against Surfers, the Lions face a pretty simple equation tomorrow: win and barrack for the Hawks.
It won’t be an easy assignment for Palm Beach, who faces a hungry Surfers side at Salk Oval.
The Demons surrendered their third spot to a red-hot Magpies side last weekend.
They will still be undermanned this weekend, missing Ryan Dienjes (concussion) for the second week in a row, with Jason Torney also out, while Regan Finlay returns from injury for the clash.
The Lions have named Sam Bourke and Bryce Perry-Bolt, while Brent Pearson is missing.
At Mott St, Mayne will be looking to take a massive scalp from what is likely their last 2013 match, against the Magpies.
A nine-goal final quarter from the Magpies was all that separated the sides in their opening round clash, and the Tigers are far improved from their early season form.
The Magpies are almost the form team of the competition at this point, and have beaten all the sides around them in recent weeks.
Wilston Grange hosts Noosa, in a must-win game.
While they have one foot in the five, Grange cannot afford to drop the game against the Tigers, and form says they probably won’t, despite a poor home ground record this season.
After snapping a mid-season slump last weekend, the Gorillas will be looking for a bit of momentum going into finals, but a side with nothing to lose always poses a danger at this point in the season.
Noosa pushed Grange in their round one clash, falling only a kick short and they will be keen to finish their season on a high.
Up on the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore hosts UQ.
The Roos will be wary of a vastly-improved Red Lions side, despite a comfortable victory in round one.
Both sides are out of finals and this one is all about pride, and who wants it more.
Finally, Burleigh takes on Coolangatta at Peak Oval, in a bid to avoid a winless season.
After last weekend’s matches, coach Shane Williams said a 0-16 year would be tragic, so you can bet they will be throwing everything at this one.
And with Coolangatta missing spearhead Jack Ryan (collar bone), the Bombers could definitely make a last-gasp grab at the four points.
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