A PLACE in a home-town grand final is at stake when arch rivals Noosa and Palm Beach-Currumbin go for the title of kings of the football jungle on Saturday.
These two sides, who have had many great battles ever since the merging of the GCAFL and the South Queensland AFL, clash in Noosa territory at Weyba Road.
By Terry Wilson
The winner goes straight into the September 10 grand final at a neutral venue in the home town of Saturday’s victors.
The losers also get home-town advantage in next weekend’s preliminary final.
Heading into Saturday’s big clash, Noosa have everything going in their favour.
The club is at absolute full strength and are coming off a huge night at the Pineapple Hotel Cup awards night.
If success at the awards function on Monday night can be carried over to the field, the Tigers are going to be very hard to beat.
Noosa took the Duncanson-Todd Medal (Lucas Matthews); Caleb Isles was equal second in the award; Matthews was also named most valuable player of the year by rival coaches; Danny Brewster won leading goalkicker; Brendan Wulf tied for reserve grade best and fairest; and the Tigers were named best club for the season in a row.
That is some sort of form to take into the weekend, although there are those who suggest Noosa’s ‘soft’ run into the finals could work against them.
Coach Wayne Fletcher was asked about the stretch o matches that featured wins over Coolangatta and Mayne, then a weekend off courtesy of the minor premiership.
“I certainly wouldn’t call them soft games,” said Fletcher. “They were still competitive.
“Before that we had a tough one against Sandgate, then we had to travel all the way down to Coolangatta.
“No, I’m not overly concerned by our lead-up. The boys are jumping out of their skin on the training track and I believe our preparations coukld not have been any better.”
Noosa have only one change from the side that blitzed Mayne in round 18. Ruckman Peter Trompf is back in action, replacing the unlucky Gary Wallace, a member of last year’s grand final team.
“That was a tough decision,” admitted Fletcher. “But there were also a few others who were unlucky because we have a full list to choose from.”
While things look rosy up on the Sunshine Coast, things are different at Palm Beach-Currumbin.
The Lions have made four changes to the side that downed Western Magpies in last weekend’s qualifying final.
Co-captain Matt Carroll (hamstring), Trevor Cahir (shoulder), Jack Munro (hamstring) and Nick Burton (concussion) are out of the side.
The replacements are champion veteran James Drake, wingman Troy Brown, half-forward Blake Schneider and key-position utility Bryce Dyer.
Sitting on the boundary line will be indisposed midfielder Brad Hewat, forward Lee Clark and central defender Chris Williams.
That is a fair amount of talent unavailable and it may end up hurting the Lions
“We’re not at full strength, but I believe it’s going to be a tough slog up there because they’ve had plenty of rain,” said coach Craig O’Brien, although word from Noosa is that their ground is in good condition.
The interesting selection is Drake, who has been battling back problems stemming from a bulging disc.
Earlier in the week reports had Drake in serious doubt, but O’Brien said his versatile veteran had a run on Tuesday night, then breezed through a full session on Thursday night.
This match is likely to be won in the midfield, where both clubs have significant depth.
Noosa have the likes of Matthews, Isles, Luke Brauer, Travis Mills and Tom McKittrick while PBC are well served by brothers Brad and Ryan Hards, Brad Horn, Darryl Dyson and at times Damien Lyon.
The one thing, away from the injuries, that may hamper the Lions is the fact they are coming off a six-day rest against a side that has had 14 days away from the hurly-burly and will be extremely fresh.
But O’Brien remains optimistic.
“Yes, we’re undermanned, but we’re in it,” he said. “We were the same last week and got over the line.”