THREE rounds to go and it’s a terrific battle shaping for the Pineapple Hotel Cup finals double chances.
After 15 rounds there are now four teams with three losses – Sandgate (146.5 per cent) and Western Magpies (131.3 per cent) on 44 points, followed by Noosa (180.4) and Wilston-Grange (130.1) on 40 points.
Then come Palm Beach-Currumbin (161.9) and Surfers Paradise (107.6) on 36 points, although Surfers have the bye to come in their desperate battle for a place in the finals.
On Friday night Wilston-Grange saw off brave Mayne by 18 points and on Saturday Sandgate reclaimed top spot on the ladder after beating Western Magpies by 46 points.
Elsewhere, Palm Beach-Currumbin beat Springwood by 84 points and Surfers Paradise downed Coolangatta by 20 points in their Gold Coast derby.
It is an intriguing run in to the finals, with Sandgate to have the final-round bye, and the Magpies and the Demons next weekend’s bye.
By next Saturday afternoon we should have a much clearer indication of who is going to make it to the finals.
NO TINKERING FOR BEATEN MAGPIES
By Terry Wilson
AN eight-goal away loss to Sandgate on Saturday is not likely to force any changes to the game plan of the Western Magpies, according to coach Peter McClennan.
The Magpies were soundly beaten by the Hawks at Lemke Road Oval on Saturday, going down by 20.10 (130) to 13.6 (84), a result that could be a catalyst for some tactical tinkering.
But McClennan insisted the Magpies will be sticking with what had worked so well for them before, in the coach’s words, the worst loss of the season.
“We’re not going to break the mould, we have something that works,” said McClennan.
Victory gave Sandgate the season clean sweep over the Magpies and delighted captain-coach Ben Long in as much as his players finally got back to what they did so well earlier in the season.
After the Hawks regained top spot on the ladder, Long remained cautious about what lies ahead, suggesting the Magpies had several key players out of action.
“I’m sure they have plenty of artillery to come back in to that side,” he said.
“But at last we got back to playing our style – and it was good to get some vibes back around the club.
“We play a contested style of football and we had been getting away from that. We apply pressure with our tackling and by getting numbers around the ball.
“On Saturday we defended well and we ran both ways, which we hadn’t been doing.”
Sandgate hold top spot on percentage from the Magpies, but face Noosa at home next weekend, then Maroochy-Northshore before the round-18 bye.
So the Pineapple Hotel Cup minor premiership is well within reach for last season’s beaten grand finalists.
The match-breaker on Saturday was the third quarter when, with a freshening wind at their backs, the Hawks put on 7.2 to 2.1.
“We really got on top in that quarter,” noted Long.
Bad news for the Hawks, though, was 2010 best and fairest, central defender Aaron Fabian, who is out for at least six weeks with a broken arm. Fabian is due back on grand final day should Sandgate get that far.
But other than that it was all rosy for the Hawks, who had centre half-back Shane Etherton step up at centre half-back in the absence of Fabian.
And a huge bonus as the form of super veteran Danny Dickfos, who kicked six goals and drew unreserved praise from both Long and McClennan.
At 40 years of age, the former Brisbane Lions star is known as ‘The Great Man’ around the Sandgate club and appeared determined to put in a big one after a below-par effort the previous round.
“He was determined to turn it around,” said Long of his ageless forward.
Also starring for the Hawks were defenders Michael McCoy on a half-back flank and full-back Glen Hunter.
Magpies boss McClennan conceded his side was outclassed in the middle and again lacked forward conversion.
Sure, the Magpies had some key players missing but McClennan refused to use that as an excuse.
“We didn’t blame the circumstance, to be frank,” he said. “And we were disappointed with the last quarter because we thought we could come home pretty hard – but it didn’t happen. We have no excuses.
“To Sandgate’s credit, they got confidence from Dickfos up front giving them a target.
“:And they wanted the football, they did the right things and went on with it.
“We had a heart-to-heart after the game and felt we had only three good contributors all day.”
Those three were all defenders – half-back and occasional midfielder Tim McEvoy, half-back Ed McDonnell and centre half-back Chris Hunt.
The Magpies now have next weekend’s bye to mull over their performance and to get things back on track again.