IT’s the battle of north Brisbane when Pineapple Hotel Cup ladder leaders Sandgate host Wilston-Grange in a huge derby at Lemke Road Oval on Saturday.
At stake is not only outright ladder leadership, but also the unofficial title of best team north of the Brisbane River, the Hawks on top of standings, one win clear of Wilston-Grange.
In another huge match, this one on the Gold Coast, premiers Noosa travel to Salk Oval to take on the desperate Palm Beach-Currumbin Lions.
This is a match the Lions simply have to win or kiss goodbye to their chances of a top-three finals finish.
In other matches, Burleigh play Mayne at Bill Godfrey Oval, the Western Magpies host Maroochy-Northshore at Chelmer and Surfers Paradise play Springwood in the third match being staged on the Gold Coast.
Coolangatta have the round 10 bye.
By Terry Wilson
LAST season’s beaten grand finalists are embarking on what captain-coach Ben Long describes as the draw from hell when they host north Brisbane rivals Wilston-Grange at Lemke Road.
The big derby, between sides placed first and second on the ladder, is the first of what is a super tough run for the Hawks, who have five of their remaining seven matches against genuine flag fancies.
“This one is going to have so much bearing in standings later on,” said Long, whose side has not had the bye so far this season.
“We’ve got Noosa twice, Palm Beach again and the Magpies again – that’s a draw from hell.”
When Sandgate last clashed with the Grange, in round one, the Gorillas pulled off what some observers felt was an ambush, the new-look Grange beating the 2010 grand finalists by 15 points at Hickey Park.
It as an upset, but form since then has verified the Gorillas as a strong premiership chance.
“I guess you could call it an ambush because they were a bit of an unknown quantity,” said Long. “But take nothing away from them for what they did.
“They are the only team that’s beaten us to date – the Magpies are the only ones they haven’t beaten.
“Their win-loss ratio is the same as ours – and they have beaten us – so I guess that puts them slightly ahead of us.”
Long has worked hard to ensure there will be no repeat of round one on Saturday.
“We’re prepared for a finals-type conte4st this time,” he said. “That was the mentality against Palm Beach last week and now we’ve prepared to take them (the Grange) on.”
The Hawks have lost utility Jacob Hipwood (back) and they omitted Luke Reynolds.
But champion ruckman Michael Pettitt and key defender Rohan Moody are significant gains for the ladder leaders.
Asked if the Gorillas did, indeed, ambush the unsuspecting Hawks in round one, Grange coach David Martin replied: “You really don’t know until you test yourself in a big game, but maybe we did.
“So I’m sure they’re pretty keen to even the score and give us a touch-up,” he said.
Wilston-Grange are coming off a much-needed bye – a break that came at just the right time, said Martin.
“We needed the bye because we had massive outs until last weekend.”
For the derby, the Gorillas regain defenders Brendan McGrath and Scott Wood, midfielder Elliot Hohenhaus and key forward Dean Warren.
They are in for injured pair Chris Jaenke and Laclan Moir and the omitted Simon Brown, Brad Terrell.
Martin is not over-confident about this clash, urging his players to control the football to ensure Sandgate’s potent firepower can be spiked somewhat.
“Sandgate are the benchmark – and they’re playing on their home ground, which is a lot bigger than most others,” he said.
“And obviously they can kick massive scores.”
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