IT is crunch time for 2010 grand finalists Sandgate in their bid to cement a top-three place for the Pineapple Hotel Cup finals.
By Terry Wilson
Sandgate went down to Palm Beach-Currumbin last weekend, the first match of a three-match fixture campaign that will make or break the Hawks in their quest for a finals double chance.
This three-match program pits the Hawks against PBC, this weekend the Western Magpies, then next weekend premiers Noosa and captain-coach Ben Long has agreed that the Hawks need to win their next two to secure a top-three berth.
And they need to regain their former consistency in performance because that area has been a bit dusty in recent times.
Certainly, Sandgate beat the Magpies by 14.16 (100) to 12.15 (87) in round seven, but that match featured some inconsistency after the Hawks outscored their opposition 6.5 to 1.3 in the first quarter at Chelmer Oval.
The Magpies outscored the Hawks by 11.13 to 8.11 after that.
“It was much the same against Palm Beach-Currumbin last weekend,” said Long after the Hawks butchered a fine opening term to lose by 33 points.
“Our best footy is more than comparable, or even better, than any other in the competition.
“Our problem is consistency in playing that brand of footy. We did that earlier in the year against good sides.
“But against Noosa we were ordinary all day and against Palm Beach we were ordinary for a half.
“That has been our biggest problem, maintaining consistency over four quarters and that is our real challenge.”
Sandgate have two changes, dropping Adam Fry and Aidan Dineen and bringing in small forward Trent Morrissey and on-baller David Scott.
Those changes give the Hawks some flexibility when it comes to matching up against the fleet-footed Magpies.
And key pair Danny Dickfos and Ben Drew, in and out of the action with niggling injuries all season, should be all the better for their first hit-outs since resuming last round.
Over in the Magpies camp, confidence is high that they can reverse the round-seven home loss to Sandgate.
The Magpies also have two changes, bringing in wingman/half-forward Jack Parkes and forward Matt Thompson for Brenton Saunders and Sean McEvoy.
Asked whether his side can reverse the slow start of round seven against the Hawks, coach Peter McClennan said: “I think we’ve got over that in the past few weeks.
“We’re not too worried about that these days. It’s more about putting our whole package together, like the inside-50-metre conversions – and we’re starting to kick goals.
“The other area we’ve been working on is quick rebound from back lines.
“So we’re just starting to put it all together – and we have four senior squad members to come back into the side (Val Pope, Hayden Thick, Jye Spencer and Conrad Hudghton.”
McConnell said the minor premiership is the target for his Magpies, and such a result would be a boon for a club that was on its knees after being relegated from the QAFL, then having their Chelmer headquarters go under in the disastrous January floods.